Another place to play
Editor’s note: This is the third installment in a five-part series, which is focused on the four city of Sanford bond referendums that will appear on the Sept. 10 ballot. The series will continue throughout the week, providing detailed information about each of the four bond referendum items. Read part one and part two here.
Sanford planners never imagined how beloved the Depot Park fountain in downtown Sanford would become among families, but after more than a decade, its popularity has endured.
“It was meant to be a centerpiece — to be very visible, but also for kids to go there and play,” said David Montogmery, Downtown Sanford Inc. executive director. “. ... I wouldn’t say that it has been loved to death like the train (also located in Depot Park), but there are certain maintenance issues with the fountain from the continued use.”
Given the constant and prominent use of the Depot Park fountain as a splash pad — an area for water play with little standing water — the city of Sanford has included a $2 million parks and recreation bond referendum to create an “appealing and accessible public space” with water elements as one of four city referendums. Local residents will vote on the measures, totalling $14.5 million, during the Sept. 10 municipal primary.
Developed idea, unknown location
The conceptual architectural renderings for a proposed public park, which appear on the city of Sanford’s website and in a brochure about the bond measures, paints a picture of what might be — but with broad strokes. There’s land allocated for a splash pad, playground equipment, open space, parking, restrooms, gazebos and a shelter. There’s just one thing missing — an actual site.
“I don’t ever think you want to settle on one location,” said City Manager Hal Hegwer. “As this thing progresses further, we would look at more than one option.”
One area being considered for the park is the Kiwanis Children’s Park, located at 807 Tryon St., but nothing has been finalized, according to Sanford-Lee County Planing Director Bob Bridwell.
Wherever the location, the park or parks should be in a central location and visible, he said. Not somewhere “tucked in a back corner.”
“We have a strong understanding of what we need out of this type of project,” Bridwell said. “We want something that really has an impact on the other projects and adds that value. There are some basic elements [Sanford City Council] feels are important, and that includes a water feature. And not only that, but one that has a strong visual appeal, so we are focused on those kinds of elements.”
A time line for the construction of the park has not been established, but if the bonds are approved, the city has a seven-year window to issue the bonds with the possibility of a three-year extension.
In 1971, the residents of Lee County voted for the parks and recreation department to be moved from under the city’s purview to the county’s during a specially held election.
“The city felt like it was providing services for the entire county,” said Lee County Parks and Recreation Director John Payne. “They didn’t have a fee system for non-residents, and I think that was the impetus for it.”
Since then, the county has been responsible for maintaining parks within the community. However, Sanford began installing “pocket parks” in various parts of the community, and Sanford Mayor Cornelia Olive said the city had an objective to put the parks where the people were and where they can attract a diverse segment of the population.
“That’s a service that is long overdue,” Olive said. “We are excited about what we have done, with the four parks there, and what we are considering for this bond is a water park that would also be an art feature for our community. It would be in a high-profile area, so it would show we are a fun place to be.”
Payne said he’s glad to see the city add neighborhood parks which can target a wider array of locations within the county.
“The county has not undertaken pocket parks,” he said. “We don’t have the manpower to go checking on those, making sure they are in good shape at so many units. But I think it’s great.”
A second splash park
The Lee County Parks and Recreation Department is also considering installing a splash pad at Horton Park, located at 1515 Washington Ave., Payne said, and it’s high on his priority list.
“It’s less expensive than a pool, and we can take advantage of the some of the structure that is at Horton,” he said. “There will still be piping and filters that will have to go in there, but we wouldn’t have to dig another hole. We could just fill in what we have.”
Despite not having a solid timetable for this possible splash pad, Payne said he doesn’t believe Lee County’s park would interfere with the city’s plans if the referendum was approved.
“The problem comes in when you don’t have enough amenities for all the people,” he said. “You end up with overcrowding. That being said, we’re not going to have [a splash pad] on every corner. They will be scattered out, so I don’t see that being an issue.”
An open-space park within the city is something Payne said he’s discussed with Bridwell at length and believes will enhance the livability of the county.
“We are in agreement,” Payne said. “The more we can provide that will improve the quality of life for citizens, the better.”