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Park improvements underway throughout the county

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Rogers Park Playground

Commissioners at the March 22, 2022 regular meeting were presented with an overview of park projects underway in the county. Community Services Director Chris Linsbeck was requested to give the update due to recent negative information by an unnamed candidate currently running for an unspecified office.

“This person spreading this misinformation, who’s running for office was also invited to come here to watch this today and declined,” Chairman Steve Champion said before the presentation began. “It’s not meeting their narrative that everything’s falling apart.”

Linsbeck reported that he and his staff are akin to “independent property managers” for some 20 parks in the county. This includes staff irrigation specialists, repair technicians, heavy equipment operators, and horticulture staff. The department also deals with vandalism and other sanitary issues.

The county Parks and Recreation Department is also responsible for special events, sports events, and tournaments that use county parks.

One of Linsbeck’s first projects upon assuming his role was replacing the playground at Anderson Snow park. The old equipment was constructed on sand, which could become quite hot. Artificial turf was installed at Anderson Snow and contains a cooling agent with the consistency of sand.

The new playground equipment across all parks is ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) Accessible. Each playground has its own theme; Anderson Snow has a sports theme, Rogers Park has a water theme, and a military theme at Veterans Memorial. Playground equipment is on order for Ridge Manor, however, its theme was not mentioned during the Tuesday meeting.

Also at Anderson Snow, common areas have been improved by installing sod and irrigation. “That’s when things really started to pop,” Linsbeck said, showing before and after photos of the areas.

Phase II of the Anderson Snow Master Plan which begins with the design of the new Harry A. Johnson Recreational Complex and other indoor pavilions is expected to start soon and be completed in 2024. County Administrator Jeff Rogers cautioned that funding could be an issue going forward. “The sales tax is really important for these things.”

Rogers was referring to the 1/2 cent sales tax increase, which goes up for a vote this November. Without the sales tax increase, the design phase will be over the next 5 to 6 years, rather than 2.

Linsbeck’s second project was the overhaul of tennis and pickleball courts at Delta Woods Park. “The tennis community has been out there every day, every night,” Linsbeck said. Rogers added, “You can’t get on those pickleball courts. They’re packed.”

Additional work is planned for Delta Woods in the next fiscal year.

The second ADA Accessible playground is currently under construction at Rogers Park. The final step will be to install the ground covering, and a ribbon-cutting is expected at the location in the next few weeks.

The seawall at Rogers Park is also currently undergoing renovations.

Lonnie C. Coburn park was recently returned to county control after being managed by the Hernando County Fairgrounds Association for a number of years. The park will reopen with a new sign by Delamere Industries, and the pavilion free of debris, a new coat of paint and damaged wood replaced.

A new blue metal roof was installed on the pavilion and bathroom building.

The Coburn family will be invited to a special opening before the park opens to the public.

The painting of Stewy’s Skate Park was begun in November 2021 to erase heavy graffiti, as well as freshen the paint after years of neglect. Members of the Westside Elementary Safety Patrol, their advisor and School Resource Officer, with a number of teachers, school officials and other members of the community volunteered their time transforming the entire complex into an inviting skate spot. A mural was painted by Kimberly Dennis of KD Art Designs.

Plans to replace the bathroom and open the concession stand are in progress.

Commissioner John Allocco said of the several parks bearing the name of someone who has fallen, “Whenever you have somebody’s name on something, it should be the responsibility of this community to make sure we maintain that. Because if we don’t, that shows poor stewardship.”

Linsbeck and his staff have also partnered with a local teen named Emma who developed the “Put a Lid on It” program. The effort is to put lids on open trash containers to keep critters out. The signs and now-covered cans are in several spots around Linda Pedersen Park and Jenkins Creek.

In partnership with the Lowman Law Firm, the county also maintains the Brooksville Bandshell. The law firm funds the maintenance.

Linsbeck has also instituted the Quarterly Awards Program. Every quarter, his department seeks volunteers to visit each park and rate it on 5 criteria: Cleanliness/ Grounds Upkeep, Park Amenity Conditions, Building/Facilities Appearance, Restroom Care, and Lawn & Landscaping.

Linsbeck has divided parks into divisions being central, west, and east. He began the program with three volunteer county Judges, and added, “It can be Commissioners … County Administrators, outside organizations, Department Heads, anybody.”

The three volunteers are assigned a location, visit parks in that division and score each based on the listed criteria. At the end of the survey, the division with the highest score receives awards and recognition. “Basically, I’m installing a sense of pride in your area. Recognition for the work you’re doing, and hopefully trying to improve the quality of our parks.”

The feedback from the program helps the department prioritize projects.