By Sallie James
Plans to build a nine-acre city park inside a residential community near Florida’s turnpike have residents worried about noise, crime, and paralyzing traffic.
Sabal Palm Park is proposed for the north side of Commercial Boulevard just west of the turnpike on a sprawling vacant stretch of land reachable only by driving through the Central Parc Community. Northwest 47th Avenue, which curves along the east side of the Central Parc residential development, would border the park’s west side.
Residents say the development is already gridlocked by excessive traffic and limited parking. A future turnpike expansion planned by the Florida Department of Transportation would also affect one acre of the vacant parcel, according to a city outline of the project.
An informational neighborhood meeting about the proposed park is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 28, at the Central Parc community pool at 5704 NW 50th Terrace. City staff will attend to discuss the conceptual plan, the project timeline, and background and answer questions. The meeting is open to the public.
A $1 million Land and Water Conservation Fund grant from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection will fund the project. Park plans include a splash pad, an off-leash dog park, a basketball court, a multi-purpose rectangular field, a playground, a fitness area, restroom facilities, a picnic shelter, and a 50-space parking lot.
But despite the amenities, residents peppered city staff with concerns during a city-sponsored virtual meeting about the project on Feb. 21. At least 20 people were on the call.
“Can the park be placed somewhere else?” one participant wrote in the virtual meeting’s chat.
Wrote another, “Keep it a residents-only park.” Another urged the city to “skip the park” and “give back the grant.”
Concerns include loiterers, parking, security, traffic, and crime.
Several residents who live on Northwest 47th Avenue across the street from the vacant land said they were unaware of the proposal but did not believe a public park would be the best fit for the vacant land.
“I’m definitely against that. A community park, yes, but a public park? That does not sound like a good idea,” said Jermaine McCormick, who purchased his home on 47th Avenue about a year ago. “I would be concerned about security.”
He speculated that park-goers would spill into the surrounding neighborhood after the 50 proposed parking spaces were filled.
“They are going to park in front of my house and my neighbors,” he said, gesturing to the stretch of Northwest 47th Avenue just north of the vacant property that runs past his home.
Neighbor Claudia Gonzalez had concerns about elevated crime. Her family’s Honda CR-V and another neighbor’s vehicle were burglarized in the past several months. In addition, current street parking is non-existent, and violators are often threatened with being towed, she said. Gonzalez said a public park would only exacerbate the parking crunch.
“There’s a lot of traffic and no space to park,” said Gonzalez, who rents a four-bedroom home on 47th Avenue across the street from the proposed project.
City officials said plans for the park have been in the works for years.
According to Tamarac Parks and Recreation Director Greg Warner, project plans were included in the city’s 2015 Parks, Recreation, and Social Services Master Plan. An initial public meeting about the project was held with residents in 2020; city records state.
During the Feb. 21 virtual meeting on the park proposal, Vice Mayor Marlon Bolton acknowledged residents’ concerns about traffic and said they could seek speed humps with a petition signed by 67 percent of the residents. He said he had spoken with many residents in favor of the proposed park.
However, when contacted on Sunday to inquire about the park’s current zoning, the total park acreage after the turnpike expansion, and what alternative developments could be built on the property, Bolton declined to answer.
Instead, Bolton texted back: “Exodus 20:9-11,” citing a Bible verse in the Old Testament that refers to not working on the Sabbath.
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- Sallie James is a veteran reporter/blogger/copywriter who spent most of her writing career in South Florida, including 22 years at the Sun Sentinel. She has also freelanced for The Coastal Star, South Florida Gay News & Florida Weekly. Sallie is the mother of grown boy/girl twins, a Guardian ad Litem, an animal rescuer, and a longtime Tamarac resident. She earned a bachelor's degree in Journalism from Indiana University.
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