Pasco News

Trinity park could share site with K-8 school

TRINITY — After a decade of trying, plans are advancing for a county super park in the Trinity area that could share facilities with an adjacent elementary and middle school.

Many more details remain to be ironed out, Ray Gadd, Pasco School District assistant superintendent for administration and operations, and Pasco Parks and Recreation Director Rick Buckman caution.

County leaders believe the latest plan for a smaller, district park stands a good chance of going to the design phase later this year. A new K-8 school could follow several years later.

A possible bonus might be a public library at some point alongside the school, Gadd said. Trinity residents have groused about the lack of a nearby library branch since the veto in 2005 of a state grant for more than $430,000 toward building the project.

The site is on Starkey Ranch land, roughly north of State Road 54 between Odessa and Longleaf. Large developments of homes would share the site with the park and school.

Gadd expressed enthusiasm about concepts before the next planning session in a few weeks.

Experts have laid out a tentative plan for the park and school, Gadd said Tuesday in a phone interview. The county and school district are trying to figure out how to share maintenance costs and other arrangements.

The public could utilize school baseball, soccer and other sports fields when not in use. Access also would be granted to tennis courts, track and gymnasium. A walking trail is envisioned around the school.

The school design could forgo a school library if a separate, public library is built next door, Gadd noted. County library officials did not have any comments yet Wednesday.

A “black box theater” concept is generating enthusiasm, Gadd believes. Students could train there for staging, set design, lighting and sound equipment. The facility could double as a community theater. Perhaps a single structure could house the library and theater, he mused.

It’s unclear when money might become available to build facilities, Gadd said.

“We’re fairly certain we’re heading in that direction,” Gadd said about the K-8 school design. A typical elementary school costs about $20 million to build while a middle school usually requires $35 million for construction.

The home developer will have most site work done by the time school construction starts, Gadd said. That could save some money.

While park facilities could get started as soon as 2014, Gadd expects construction of any school-related facilities would be at least three years away.

Buckman, the county parks chief, says nothing was finalized at the last planning meeting Sept. 25.

“However, we are getting closer to a three-party agreement between the county, school board and developer to construct a school complex (K-8), a public library and a district park with the same amenities as was constructed at Wesley Chapel District Park,” Buckman wrote in an email.

“Many facilities will be co-used,” Buckman reports. “Some complex and detailed agreements will need to be worked out between the school system and the county but both parties want to find a way to make this happen if the current conceptual design comes to fruition.”

Park construction would come in phases “because we have a limited fund balance in the west zone,” Buckman added. The park facilities impact fee fund could provide the money for the Trinity park.

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