Hillsborough County Parks, Recreation and Conservation Department director Mark Thornton talks to residents in connection with a proposed community park, which would be paid for by the county but would need to be maintained by the community.

That FishHawk Ranch residents wanted to be heard and to voice their concerns in connection with the county’s plans to build a community park, there was very little doubt.
However, the meeting that was hosted by the Hillsborough County Parks, Recreation and Conservation (PRC) department and held in the Magnolia Room at the Palmetto Club, located at 17004 Doorman Rd. in Lithia, quickly revealed that the majority of those present did not favor the plans.
According to PRC Director Mark Thornton, the budget for the proposed park is approximately $500,000, funded through impact fees and would be constructed on county owned land at the intersection of Osprey Ridge Dr. and Parkset Dr.
Ideas for the park include basketball and tennis courts, a passive park or a park with open play fields with playground equipment or a dog park, which was added to the plans as a new feature.
Concern over the building of such a place grew further, as Thornton explained that, in order for the county to construct the park, ongoing maintenance must be taken into account, which is something the county currently is unable to provide.
“At present, the county PRC budget does not have the funding to maintain this new facility,” Thornton said. “Therefore, without a commitment from the FishHawk CDD to maintain the property, the new park construction will remain on hold.”
Thornton said that the estimated cost for annual maintenance of the park is approximately $20,000, which the county is not prepared to provide at this time.  
Supporting or paying such a price for a park that would be open to everybody, allowing outsiders in, simply did not sit well with many in attendance, including FishHawk resident Kathy Browning.
“I am definitely against the building of this park,” she said. “The community already has a number of private community parks throughout the development, and we really do not need another athletic park across the street from the FishHawk Sports Complex.” 
While Browning, along with others, did express favor for a dog park in another location away from the homes, the group unanimously applauded following Thornton’s comments about leaving the approximately eight-acre land undeveloped.  
Project Manager Erthel Hill said that building the park has been in the works since 2003. Based on the recent meeting, county staff will take all public comments into consideration and look at all the options.
The county will continue to take public comments through the end of the year and will hold another meeting later this year.

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