Historic Bayview Park Preserved (FL)

Clearwater, FL, 11/14/02: With the help of the Trust for Public Land and the Florida Communities Trust, the community of Clearwater has preserved one of the last vestiges of natural open space left in Pinellas County. Located in the historic community of Bayview – one of the first settlements in Pinellas County – and within the City of Clearwater, the 4.5-acre site at the heavily-traveled intersection of Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard (SR60) and the Bayside Bridge will become a public passive recreation and environmental park. The parcel contains a stand of original native oak trees many of them in specimen condition, which will be preserved. The new park will connect directly to Old Tampa Bay across adjacent county property to the south and will provide a place where the community can experience hands-on what natural Pinellas County is like, where few such opportunities exist.

A joint effort by the City of Clearwater and the Historic Bayview Neighborhood will improve the park to include a walking/nature trail with environmental education kiosks, picnic facilities and a trail to access the beachfront on Old Tampa Bay.

“We have been fighting commercial development on that site for more than 20 years,” said Jack Alvord, president of the Historic Bayview Neighborhood Association. “It’s a wonderful site for an environmental education center, easily accessible for every school in both Pinellas and Hillsborough County. I don’t think you could pick a better place.”

The property was conveyed to the City of Clearwater last week from the Trust for Public Land, which purchased the property from the Laura Nall Connolly Revocable Trust on June 21.

“The creation of this park involved overcoming significant hurdles,” said Doug Hattaway, project manager for the Trust for Public Land. “We were very pleased to be part of the solution.”

Last year, the owner of the property requested that the City rezone the property to allow an office building on the site. City staff and the Community Development Board unanimously supported the proposed plan, and the City Commission approved the owner’s request for a zoning change. After the neighborhood association’s opposition, the City Commission denied the request at the second public hearing – reversing the approval it had given two weeks earlier. The owners filed suit against the City for its actions. The Trust for Public Land (TPL) then entered the picture, negotiated a contract to purchase the property, worked with the City to secure a Florida Communities Trust state grant for the site’s acquisition and then conveyed the property into public ownership to create the park. Senator Jack Latvala, Senator Jim Sebesta and Rep. Kim Berfield were all involved in championing the project at the state level.

“Resolving land use conflicts through public open-space acquisition is not an unusual role for TPL and FCT,” said Rep. Kim Berfield of Clearwater. “The legislation that created FCT specifically mentioned resolving land use conflicts as one of FCT’s roles. TPL has been involved in several projects in Florida that have involved litigation – one example is Lake Jackson Park in Tallahassee, in which TPL’s involvement helped end a 12-year legal battle, saved the property from further development and turned it into a county park.”

The purchase price of the property was $1.9 million, 10 percent less than its appraised value. Seventy-five percent came from FCT, with a 25 percent local match split by the City of Clearwater and Pinellas County. The Trust for Public Land also contributed to the purchase.

“The partnership established between FCT, TPL, and the City of Clearwater sets the standard for success in land acquisition programs,” said Janice Browning, Executive Director of Florida Communities Trust. “The FCT grant of $1.4 million provides an excellent opportunity to leverage state and local dollars for the preservation of a locally driven and community-based project.”

“This is a win-win-win situation,” said Sen. Jim Sebesta of St. Petersburg. “The community gets a beautiful and historic park that would otherwise be lost to development.”