The Manatee County Commission Tuesday OK'd $7,000 for a study to evaluate whether an 88-acre former borrow pit might be restored for a neighborhood park or preserve in Palmetto.
"When you build communities, you have a sense of pride, and they want to protect what they have," said Pastor Arthur A. Huggins, Sr. "What you would do is give that community such a pride."
Huggins and a half-dozen other speakers from the neighborhood appeared during the county commission meeting to lobby on behalf of a park or preserve at the site of the overgrown former borrow pit.
The board voted unanimously to spend money from its reserves for the study, about which Commissioner Betsy Benac warned: "The real project is still down the road."
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Speakers told the board they hoped the park, in the shadow of the U.S. Hwy. 41 at 30th Street East, could help spur wholesome activities for young people, who otherwise might be become discouraged and fall into crime.
The wild tract might include a 1,000-meter lake where residents could row, canoe and kayak, and perhaps enjoy a pretty upland park as well, according to county officials.
The lake would be a training facility since it could not meet specifications for competitive rowing, officials said.
"It gets the ball rolling," Manatee County Commissioner Michael Gallen said after the meeting, referring to the money allocated for the study.
Neighborhood civic groups have been requesting money for the park for more than 12 years, and even have seen some drawings.
In the 1960s, state officials bought the land from a private owner to supply dirt for overpass construction, which left a nasty scar through the neighborhood, Gallen has said.
Over the years, the borrow pit filled with water becoming a pond encircled by a thick growth of nuisance vegetation.