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Supporters beg town for Bayfront dog park

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  • | 4:00 a.m. October 22, 2014
Fluffy, pictured at the Hot Diggity Dog Parade at Freedom Fest, supports a dog park, according to his owner, Bill Anderson.
Fluffy, pictured at the Hot Diggity Dog Parade at Freedom Fest, supports a dog park, according to his owner, Bill Anderson.
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The Bayfront Park question has dogged commissioners since at least 2003.

But when Bill Anderson addressed the Longboat Key Town Commission at its regular workshop Monday, he said he spoke on behalf of his dog, Fluffy, who he said wants to see a dog park at Bayfront Park. He was one of about a half-dozen residents, most of whom are members of the newly formed Rotary Club of Longboat Key, who urged the commission to consider a dog park for the site.

The town will hold an open house Oct. 30 to seek feedback about what residents want to see in the park.

The commission discussed the park again at the workshop, after town staff provided a status update.

Anderson said he would have to explain to his dog what happened during the workshop.

“They’re going to take out all the poles on Longboat Key,” Anderson said, drawing laughter. “All we’ll have left is mailboxes. And then there was this big discussion about let’s expand the beach, and I can’t even go there.”

Anderson continued:

“He has already expressed to me that Longboat Key is the most beautiful leashed dog park in the country, but he says, ‘My friends want an unleashed dog park.’”

Sydelle Pittas, president of the Rotary Club, told the commission she supports a dog park despite having never owned a dog.

“I don’t think dog parks are for dogs,” she said. “I think dog parks are for people.”

“It’s a tremendous way for residents to socialize and I think that’s one of the things you’re trying to accomplish with this park,” said Chris Lake.

Madelyn Spoll, however, reiterated the point she made at the commission’s Oct. 6 meeting.

“It’s ridiculous that we’ve been talking about this for so many years,” she said. “Please, no more meetings. We’ve had so many of them, and nothing has changed.”

The Urban Land Institute (ULI) Implementation Advisory Committee has gathered input on what residents want at Bayfront Park and determined that many residents are against both a leashed or unleashed dog park on the site.

In October 2013, a ULI panel recommended upgrading amenities at Bayfront Park but suggested placing a long-discussed community/cultural center in a Bay Isles area town center.

Although commissioners listened to ideas from the public, they did not attempt to reach consensus.

Mayor Jim Brown said that the commission would not make decisions about the park until after the open house. But he stressed the importance to town staff of leaving everything — including a community center — on the table during the open house.

“I believe it’s critical that when staff discusses this that it tells the public that’s a possibility,” Brown said.

“No plans have been decided.”

Voters rejected a referendum question in 2004 that would have allowed the town to seek a $5.9 million bond for a community center on the property.

The property has been the subject of ongoing discussions, most recently in 2012, when the town held public workshops.

The Urban Land Institute Implementation Advisory Committee found widespread support for the following amenities at Bayfront Park:
• New recreation building
• Pickle ball
• Restrooms
• Safe entrance
• Children’s area/playground
• Picnic area
• Covered pavilion
• Bocce ball
• Kayak rentals, storage
• Fishing pier
• Shuffleboard courts
• Multipurpose field, with baseball
• Performance/gathering/multiuse sports court
• Exercise stations
• Track for running, jogging, walking
• Basketball court
• Volleyball/badminton
• Flexible event space
• Exercise/fitness classes
• Technology hub
• Craft making area
• Bicycle facilities

If you go
Bayfront Park improvements open house

When: 2 to 4 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 30
Where: Bayfront Park Recreation Center, 4052 Gulf of Mexico Drive



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