The long untapped potential of the 200-acre Hidden Harbor Park should begin to emerge in the second half of 2017, said Charlie Hunsicker, director of Manatee County Natural Resources.
Acquired by the county in 2004, Hidden Harbor Park has long been overshadowed by higher profile projects literally next door: the Fort Hamer Bridge and Fort Hamer Park. The county bought the property for $12.8 million, including a $9.6 million grant from the Florida Community Trust.
“We have been having to continually defer and defer because of our funding situation in Manatee County,” Hunsicker said. “There are a lot of hands reaching for the same dollar.”
The county has plugged $1.2 million into its capital improvement plan for Hidden Harbor Park.
In addition to habitat restoration, the county plans to make Hidden Harbor a true regional park with a family picnic area, play fields, kayak and canoe launch, volleyball courts, and a splash park, Hunsicker said.
The first part of a four-year plan for the park includes landscape and habitat restoration, followed by restrooms, trails and the kayak launch.
“We were presented with an abandoned farm field,” Hunsicker said of the starting point for the park.
People are biting at the bit to get the boat ramp and park open.
Norma Kennedy, president of the Parrish Arts Council, said Parrish residents offered their suggestions to the county for how it should be developed and often ask about the park’s status.
“People have driven by there since we bought the property and wondered,” Hunsicker acknowledged.
Work should commence after the Fort Hamer Bridge opens in the summer of 2017.
Improvements to neighboring Fort Hamer Park are expected to wrap up this week. The park should reopen to the public no later than mid-August. More parking, security lights, a turn-around loop, stormwater improvements, sidewalks and a plaza have been added since it was closed in January.
The county will start work on the Fort Hamer boat ramp in December to make it double wide. The ramp will close as a cofferdam is built to drain water from around the ramp, and pour concrete for the new ramp, Hunsicker said. The ramp will be closed for about 10 weeks during the widening project.
December was selected for the start of work because it has the quietest weather, he said.
Kennedy said she is pleased to hear that the county is finalizing its plans for Hidden Harbor Park.
“Absolutely,” Kennedy said. “People are looking at the county web site and wondering what is going on. When that bridge gets finished, you will see a whole new Parrish.”
The completion of Hidden Harbor Park will bring a brand-new amenity to the Parrish area, she said.
“It’s been a long, hot summer, and people have to get an a car and go somewhere for recreation. People are biting at the bit to get the boat ramp and park open,” Kennedy said.