BRADENTON -- Residents, city officials and a team of designers gathered Wednesday night to develop a vision for city-owned parcels of land alongside Ware's Creek.
Opinions voiced at the Ballard Park community design workshop Wednesday at Ballard Elementary will help determine what should be done with the four parcels. Most people asked for some sort of park or green space with trails, water access and new housing.
Councilman Patrick Roff and City Planner Tim Polk led the meeting to determine the repurposing of land they said they hope will include an environmental preserve the community can take pride in and use.
"This has been a long time coming. This area is getting better and better," Roff said.
"What we need to do is find a way to get this area repopulated."
The city acquired the four parcels during the same time the creek was being dredged. The dredging project gave the area a new identity and now wildlife such as osprey, snook, manatee and dolphins are regularly sighted, according to Roff.
Since acquiring the land, the city demolished three dilapidated houses on the property and intend to demolish four more.
"This area won't be better by building more houses," resident Guy Singletary said. "I would love to see some sort of local access to the water."
Singletary said he walked to the meeting in hopes a passive facility would be developed with picnic tables and grills.
"I would utilize that space and to me that would make my property more valuable," he said.
Palmetto High School teacher Paul Stone said he hopes the space would include a community garden for children to get hands-on experience. A garden would engage students in all sorts of activities and subjects beyond just science, he said.
"I want the kids to get dirty," Stone said.
Until a decision is made on what to do with the property, it is unsure where the city will get the funds to redevelop it.
The next workshop is expected in a month, where the team will bring renderings of ideas from the workshop.
Polk said he hopes to have a final proposal completed in May to be presented to city council for approval.
"The community was engaged. They are willing to share a vision of what they want and don't want," Polk said. "People were also able to foresee any problems."
The city went through a similar design process to create the Riverwalk, and officials hope to have much success in creating spaces that will be equally used and loved, they said.
Jessica De Leon, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.