DAVENPORT – Right now, the 81 acres of land off U.S. 27 next door to the Bass Lake development doesn’t look like much, but Michael Callender envisions quite a bit there.
He sees tennis courts, a sports field, concession stands, and a dock by the nearby lake.
And in a few months, the general public will, too.
“I’m very excited about this project,” said Callender, Polk County’s parks and recreation manager. “We’re well under way to development.”
The park is about 1.2 miles south of the Lake County line on U.S. 27, and the 81 acres are being developed in two phases as a public park and recreation area for the entire region – a region where parks are now sorely lacking, he added.
“This is the only park in this area, and it is going to be tremendously used,” Callender said.
This morning, Callender gave a presentation on the new park to the Four Corners Area Council, the group of business owners in the Four Corners area where U.S. 27 and U.S. 192 meet. The council held its monthly meeting at the Sunshine Foundation’s Dream Village in Loughman.
Callender presented the council members with the “concept plan” for the park, which he said is well on its way to the completion of phase one.
“We’re looking for a grand opening on this in the January/February time frame,” he said. “Right now we’re in the process of developing phase one. We’re not funded for phase two yet.”
Phase one, he said, includes developing fields that will be used for soccer and football, constructing tennis court, and putting in a boat ramp, sports field, concession stands and public lighting.
“We’ve made a little bit of a modification on the tennis courts, to accommodate pickle ball,” he said. “We’re putting some extra stripes on there so it can be used for that activity.”
Before the park has even opened, he added, “We’ve been contacted by Disney, which is very interested in holding some events there.”
One thing they’re not doing in phase one, he said, is building a special dog park for people who want to walk their dogs there.
“Unfortunately, that’s in phase two,” he said.
The council members noted that a public park has been something they’ve been lobbying for throughout much of the past eight years, so this project is well appreciated.
“We’re very happy you guys are doing this,” said Hector Lizasuain, chairman of the Four Corners Area Council.
With phase two still needed funding, council member Sonny Buoncervello suggested reaching out to the other three neighboring county governments – in Lake, Orange and Osceola counties – to chip in with Polk County on the maintenance costs, since residents of all four counties are likely to use this park.
“What if you asked the four counties to take 25 percent of it (the cost) each,” Buoncervello said.
Callender said that support would likely be welcomed by Polk County commissioners, and he agreed that this park is badly needed in a fast growing area that is still lacking in some basic services — recreational programs included.
“Our first concern is taking care of the residents,” he said. “The only other thing we have now is our small Loughman park, and that is not taking care of our needs. If the other counties are willing to contribute, we would certainly listen to that.”
Callender said his office would soon run ads in area newspapers for youth leagues that may want to use the park for future events, adding “We do rent the facility for tournaments.”
Scott Smith, a member of the Four Corners Area Council and pastor of the Community of Faith United Methodist Church in Davenport, said this park will likely help meet the growing need for more soccer events across the region.
“I should know, I go to soccer tournaments every weekend,” he said.
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