Last Wednesday evening, Town officials held the last of five meetings they’ve held over the last few weeks with residents who live on or near streets where the Town owns Right of Way (ROW) at the bay, to see what they would like to see happen to those areas. After being advised to do so by Town Council, Public Works Director Scott Baker met with residents of Coconut, Hercules, Amberjack and Delmar to hear what, if anything, they’d like to see happen on their streets in anticipation of the annual budget discussions beginning next month.
Last week was a bit unusual in that the property in question was in a mixed business and residential neighborhood – Bayside Park next to Nervous Nellie’s, commonly known as the Town Fountain. Since this area is popular with both residents and visitors, the proposed solution that the neighbors came up with was an innovative one – to replace the current often malfunctioning fountain with a ‘splash pad’ – a large, flat area where water shoots up vertically at random intervals – popular in many urban areas and easy to maintain.
Mark Kincaid from Coastal Engineering, a firm that’s done a lot of work for the Town over the years, explained that the original plan for that area was to have a boardwalk continuing from under the bridge around to Snug Harbor, with the Town’s dinghy dock located in between.
“At that time, we worked with the developer and put the dinghy dock where it is under the bridge,” Baker said. “There were many ideas as to what should be done in that space between Nellie’s and the Snug Harbor buildings – from a park/garden to a water taxi to an ‘Olde Seaport’ concept. We are here today to see what you all think. Let me remind everyone that this is a ‘fact-finding’ mission only – there is no set plan whatsoever.”
Scott explained that the biggest reason Council asked him to call the meeting is the fact that there have been ongoing problems with the current fountain.
“Right now we are rebuilding the pump for the fountain, but there are ongoing issues because – for some reason – all the electronics for the fountain are set in the ground next to the back bay, actually at a lower level than the water, so we have a heck of a time keeping that area dry,” he said. “Plus, we just heard from the Tourist Development Council (TDC) that they will no longer pay to keep the fountain going.”
Council member Tracey Gore, who lives not far from Bayside Park, suggested replacing the fountain with ‘something fun for the kids’.
“Whatever we end up doing here will be funded after what happens in the residential neighborhoods,” she said. “That being said, it would be great to replace the fountain with something for kids as there’s not much for kids on the island.”
At that point, Sun Deck Inn owner Rae Sprole handed out several conceptual drawings rendered by her son, Cameron. The renderings depicted a flat surface where the fountain is currently located. When people walked on it, short plumes of water shoot into the air.
“When I went to Orlando they had a place like this, and it was very popular,” she said. “I don’t think this would be expensive to maintain, and it would attract kids and families – especially when it’s hot.”
Neighboring residents and business owners – often at odds with each other – both quickly warmed to the idea.
“At Nervous Nellie’s, we’d like to start paying the Town to rent the Bayside Park area for weddings,” said owner Len Lemmer. “This idea makes great sense because it could be turned off for events.”
Ed Scott wanted to know how much it would all cost, saying his only concern is that he doesn’t want to see it become a flat area ‘and be taken over by businesses like Time Square is.’
At the end of the meeting, consensus was reached that no one likes the fountain as it currently exists. Baker said he’d report that to Council and look into capping it until a new plan for the area could be agreed upon, and Gore suggested waiting to hear from the seasonal residents.
Keri Hendry Weeg
Caption: Rendering of possible splash pad at Bayside Park by Cameron Sprole.