New Glazier Gates Park open; more to come
It’s been about three years since the city of Bradenton sparked outrage by trading away the land that once was Glazier-Gates Park with its sweeping tall oak trees and open space, so developers could build a new apartment complex.
After much delay, largely due to construction delays within the housing development, the long promised effort to rebuild Glazier-Gates on land the city receieved from the developer is underway.
The decision to allow the development of what is now The Preserve at Riverwalk, led to months of community protests and a failed lawsuit. The city pledged that Glazier-Gates would be rebuilt and relocated on part of the land it originally occupied.
The first part of the new park has opened.
The so-called “tot park,” a small children’s playground area, opened this week much to the delight of kids who live at The Preserve. Public access is tricky, but the park can be reached at Third Avenue West off of 10th Street West heading north from Manatee Avenue West or south from Riverside Drive West.
The playground area features a new artificial flooring instead of the traditional mulch or sand typically found at playgrounds. The soft covering worked out well for one young man trying to do tricks off the swing set on Wednesday and ended up bouncing his head off the ground.
It was visually apparent that the floor absorbed what could have been a more serious playground injury.
It is the prototype of what the city has in store for all of its parks.
“We wanted this new park to be the best we could make it,” said City Administrator Carl Callahan. “We hope to spread the same concept to the rest of our parks because it really does look good compared to mulching our playgrounds.”
The rest of Glazier-Gates Park — named after two early Manatee County pioneers — will be constructed across Third Avenue West to the north of the new playground and The Preserve. It is the bigger section of land that was acquired by the city in the land swap and gives an open view of the Manatee River.
The city approved conceptual designs last summer and has expressed frustration over delays, but Callahan said final drawings are expected to come before the city council as soon as April 3. If the council reaches a consensus on the final design, further planning and construction can begin by summer.
The new park will have more playground equipment, improved lighting, open space and walking trails featuring rustic, outdoor exercise amenities.
The land swap drew a lot of protest for a variety of reasons, including the destruction of dozens of live oak trees that provided beautiful canopy shade at the original park.
But the primary reason was the misconception about the historical value of the land, the city argued. Mineral Springs Park to the east is more historically significant and was recently designated part of the National Park Services Underground Railroad Network to Freedom.
Though Ezekiel Glazier did indeed have a homestead on the site of the old Glazier-Gates Park, that land is still in the city’s possession and will become part of the new Glazier-Gates Park. The city received about $650,000 from The Preserve’s developer to pay for the playground equipment and make improvements at Mineral Springs.
The work at Mineral Springs was delayed because the city acquired property to the north along the river to essentially double the size of Mineral Springs and to be the eastward ending point of an expanded Riverwalk.
The controversy didn’t matter to 13-year-old Phoenix McQueen and his 11-year-old sister Shannon on Wednesday. Taking a break from their homeschooling, the siblings were hard at play in the new playground.
Shannon said they moved in about a year ago and the playground area was nothing but dirt. As it began to take form, she said the children in The Preserve were itching to get out and play on the new equipment.
“This place is very nice and way nicer than other places we’ve lived,” she said. “This playground is a very nice addition and makes it even better.”
Phoenix said the artificial turf was a great idea and made playing a lot more comfortable than other playgrounds.
“It’s nicer and more comfortable,” he said. “I think it might be the best part.”