NEW PORT RICHEY — A long-range master plan to transform Sims Park is letting City Council members pick and choose which features they might want to add over the years. It could take a decade or more to finish improvements at the downtown park, city leaders emphasized. “We’re not suggesting going out and spend $12 million” in one fell swoop to build the long-range plan, Mayor Rob Marlowe said. That’s how much the architect’s grand vision could cost if everything was built, Mayor Rob Marlowe estimates. Yet the architect included some “fairly grandiose” (features) for later phases, he said.
One late phase big-ticket item is a parking garage. Even if the city could afford to build everything, operating the park would be too expensive, Councilman Bill Phillips said. “We’re not casting anything in concrete tonight,” Marlowe stressed. Council members were reluctant to OK all phases of the architect’s vision when they don’t have price tags yet on some of the items that the city might build first. At a work session, council members reached a general consensus to tackle select items in the first phase that could cost $1.8 million according to a rough estimate. Council members liked suggestions for more shade at the park, moving the playground to the north end of the park away from Main Street, and adding docks along the riverfront. However, none of the items has been put to a vote yet. “With no real prices to any of this stuff, it’s all very theoretical,” Marlowe said. ”We’re not asking you to make any commitment to any phase of the project, but only to accept the conceptual plan,” City Manager Debbie Manns advised council members. The master concept is “truly just a planning tool.” “Some of this stuff is pretty pie in the sky,” Marlowe remarked. He remembered the discarded idea from architects in the August 2013 draft plan to move Peach Hall onto a barge in Orange Lake. The concept for a new playground has gained perhaps the most support. The current wooden Super Playground is showing its age after more than 20 years, Marlowe said. The relocated playground would gain three splash pads and other features. Christina Ramsumair and her handicapped daughter Raven, 3, are glad a new playground would include more handicapped access. The two often travel to a more accessible playground in Largo.