Manatee County plans new regional park, official says

skennedy@bradenton.comJune 13, 2014 

MANATEE -- County officials are planning a new regional park near Fort Hamer Park, an official said Thursday.

Hidden Harbour Park at 1625 Fort Hamer Road, Parrish, was originally planned to include ballfields and playground facilities, but for budgetary reasons the county now plans more passive recreational options such as picnic tables and hiking trails, according to Charlie Hunsicker, county parks and natural resources director.

"As we grow out there, the land will wait for us to bring active recreation in the coming decade," he said after discussing plans for the park during a budget workshop with county commissioners.

Construction on passive recreational elements will start this year onsite, which is pastureland, he said.

The county intends to do recreational improvements and environmental restoration, including work on braided wetlands along the Manatee River waterfront, Hunsicker said.

The Hidden Harbour tract was acquired by Manatee County in 2004, according to the Southwest Florida Water Management District.

Discussion about the new park triggered a complaint from Commission Chairman Larry Bustle, who said he felt left out of policy and priority discussions involving parks.

"It's a crying shame a region as big as my district doesn't have a public swimming pool," he told commissioners at the Manatee County Administration Building.

A pool north of the Manatee River should be on the county's five-year plan, Bustle said, adding: "Otherwise, you're going to have difficulty with me, because I don't think your plan has priorities the same with me."

Commissioner Michael Gallen agreed, saying: "Nothing will be built unless we start planning today. In the future, we'll have the funds to operate."

Hunsicker noted swimming pools have always been a priority within the constraints of the budget, adding he didn't disagree with anything said. "I'm anxious in coming years to be part of that change," he said.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.

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