By Jill Fox
At a cost close to $1 million, the proposed covered bridge park was once again a contentious topic at Wednesday’s city commission meeting.
Commission members discussed each component at length, including the newest figures, which showed the project exceeding its proposed budget by almost $275,000.
Covered Bridge Park is an approximately 2.9-acre piece of land located in the City of Parkland on Holmberg Road just west of State Road 7. Open from dusk to dawn, improvements include multiple nature trails, enhanced native landscape, a centralized open lawn, a nature play area for children, a meditation garden, and a small, gated parking lot.
City staff recommended using M&J Consulting Group Corp. for $870,093, including a base bid of $770,093 and $100,000 for city and permit fees.
When originally considered in July 2020, the estimated amount was far less.
Bill Evans, Director of Public Works, explained the original figure did not reflect the field and soil conditions, the utilities’ availability, or account for the inflation of certain items like fill, trucking, lime rock, and asphalt.
Over the past few years, the discussion about the proposed park has been anything but passive.
The first phase of the project, removing overgrown invasive vegetation, took place in October 2019, followed by public outreach.
In 2020, residents from the neighborhoods bordering the site voiced their concerns about an increase in traffic, safety and security, privacy, park maintenance, and the addition of a parking lot.
“I think the traffic pattern is an accident waiting to happen,” said Vice Mayor Bob Mayersohn.
“We addressed residents’ concerns to the best of our ability,” said Mayor Rich Walker, referring to reducing the parking from 20 spaces down to eight, as well as adding additional trees and shrubs for privacy.
According to budget and grants manager, Sherri Toops, the city has been awarded a $17,000 grant from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services for trees. They are hoping to receive a second $200,000 grant from the Florida Recreation Development Assistance Grant Program.
“The project is ready. We are over budget, but we’ll hopefully get some of the money back to offset the costs,” he said.
Commissioner Jordan Isrow and Vice Mayor Mayersohn argued that the passive park is no longer a high priority. Commissioner Ken Cutler favored the idea of moving forward.
“As you come into our city, it’s one of the first things you’re going to be seeing, and right now, it looks like a train wreck,” Cutler said.
In a 3 to 2 vote, with Mayersohn and Isrow opposing, the process moves forward, with construction beginning June.
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