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Downtown pocket park construction moves forward

W_-_HS_Gazebo_3-27-12_copyHIGH SPRINGS – The High Springs City Commission will move forward with improvements to the pocket park along Railroad Avenue.  The decision was made at a special Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) meeting on Friday, March 30.

After concerns were raised earlier about safety, the commission discussed the possibility of moving the gazebo from its current location to another within the city. Commissioner Linda Gestrin worried that the current placement of the gazebo so close to the street could potentially cause an accident.

In March, City Manager Jeri Langman halted further progress on the park until city leaders decided how to proceed.

The High Springs Community Development Corporation (CDC) began talks about the project in 2008 and obtained two grants totaling $6,000 to help the city with associated costs. The CRA contributed an additional $3,000 to cover any costs accrued beyond the $6,000. In February 2012, the CDC money was handed over to the City of High Springs for construction on the park.

However, after the City’s recent move to stop progress on the park, the CDC requested that the City return the money.

“As the recipients of the two grants, we have a fiduciary responsibility to the grantors to assure these monies are used for their designated purpose,” stated Dot Harvey, president of the CDC, in a letter to the city manager.

Since the safety concerns were raised, Langman hasworked with the city’s building inspector to determine how the project could safely move forward.  The city has decided to close off the exit to the gazebo that leads into the street and build an alternate exit from the side.  Langman said the High Springs Fire Department has offered its time to move wood from the side of the gazebo to close off the back exit. Several benches, which are being restored by the fire department, will be placed inside the structure for seating.

In addition, landscaping will be added around the rear of the gazebo to create a barrier between the street and the gazebo. To comply with American Disability Association requirements, one of the exits will have a ramp leading from the gazebo to the sidewalk.

Lighting at the pocket park will be provided either by Progress Energy or through solar lighting, depending on which is the most economical, said Vice Mayor Bob Barnas. He said water will also be hooked up to the park for landscape irrigation.

Barnas said if any money is left over from the donated $6,000, it will be returned to the CDC.

“It’s a nice project,” Barnas said.  “It’s in a good location and it will be safe.”

City staff added that the park will provide a space for people to gather during events such as Pioneer Days or simply to eat lunch outside on a beautiful day.