Despite opposition, commissioners OK changes at Possum Creek Park

Published: Thursday, October 1, 2009 at 10:51 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, October 1, 2009 at 10:51 p.m.

Strong opposition from residents surrounding a northwest Gainesville park didn't thwart plans to develop Possum Creek Park with a skate park, walking trail and dog park.

"This is the only open-space park in Gainesville," said Denise Denny, who estimates she lives 10 feet from the park. "I enjoy the soccer and the flag football, the Frisbee, kite flying, rocket shooting ... it's absolutely phenomenal. We're taking and we're chopping off a big portion of the park."

A petition was presented to the Gainesville City Commission with 127 signatures of residents opposing the change to zoning that commissioners heard Thursday night, which would allow the additional uses of the park.

Possum Creek Park, 4009 NW 53rd Ave., is a 75-acre park with the majority of space dedicated to nature. However, approximately 20 acres are now used for recreational purposes.

Commissioners voted unanimously to approve the zoning change, stating they believe the changes at the park will actually improve the neighborhood.

"We should support this endeavor, if nothing else, just to support providing a positive recreational facility for our children," Commissioner Scherwin Henry said, adding he was a skateboarder in his youth.

A number of skateboarders spoke in favor of the project, including Josh Newman, owner of Gainesville Skate Park on Waldo Road.

"It's probably going to put a hell of a damper on my business, but Gainesville needs a skate park," Newman said. "It really is long overdue."

Newman said that an adequate free skate park is something that has been worked on in this community for more than 15 years.

Concerns of the residents were centered around increased traffic, particularly foot traffic that comes from people parking in the neighborhood and cutting through private property to the park, and increased noise from the skate park.

City staff said additional buffers, like shrubbery, will be planted between the neighborhood and the park.

Steve Phillips, director of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs, said the $1 million park redevelopment has a number of funding sources, including the voter-approved half-cent sales tax for parks and recreation.

"I regret that I voted for the Wild Spaces Public Places," said Jayne Dunnigan, who spoke on behalf of residents in the Northwood West neighborhood. "We consider the skate park overdevelopment for the size of the park ... We voted 26 to 4 against the skate park (in the neighborhood meeting) and that wasn't in the minutes. I think that is very indicative of covering up the process."

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