Under the Buckhorn administration, creating and enhancing city parks has been one of the signatures achievements of his tenure, particularly in the downtown area. Now the community around Gandy Boulevard may have the opportunity for more recreation possibilities.
On Thursday, the Tampa City Council called on chairman Frank Reddick to contact U.S. Sen. Biil Nelson to see if he can help the city acquire a South Tampa property leased by the U.S. Marines that would ultimately expand a nearby park.
The official motion calls on Reddick to contact Sen. Nelson and the rest of the Florida congressional delegation to work with officials at MacDill Air Force Base to allow the city to purchase the Marine Corps Reserve Center on South Gandy Blvd. That would allow the city to expand A.J. Palonis Jr. Park, which sits next door. For decades, the marine center has been the home of the 4th Assault Amphibian Battalion.
It’s an idea that Councilman Mike Suarez has been contemplating since earlier this year. He’d like to transform what is currently a very passive park with some nature trails into another waterfront park for residents and visitors to enjoy.
The marine center is owned by the Florida Department of Transportation and leased to the U.S. government. The Marines use the facility for amphibious training.
Tom Snelling, the city’s director of the Planning and Development Department, told council members roughly the same time that Suarez made his initial motion back in March to explore the possibility of expanding the area for a park, officials with the Marines had reached out to the city to see if the city had a space they could move to.
Snelling said his initial thoughts were that the idea was good, “but the city does not have beachfront property that we control that we can let somebody go and take over and move in there.”
Snelling said that the Marines had reached out to MacDill, but officials with MacDill were “not receptive.”
However, Suarez says that Nelson is a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and has some clout in discussing the deal with military officials in allowing the city to lease the land.
“I think it’s a great idea,” remarked Councilman Harry Cohen. Whether MacDill AFB officials are more open to the concept remains to be seen.