Hampered by delays and cost overruns though it was, the complete, 30-month reconstruction of Holland Park had cost $4.7 million by the time it opened two years ago. The park immediately became the city’s most luxurious. Tuesday evening, the Palm Coast City Council approved a super-luxury upgrade: a $5.14 million plan to add amenities to the park, including a “splash pad,” shade for bocce courts and lights for shuffleboard, tennis, volleyball and other courts. The council also approved a $475,000 plan to build pickleball courts at Ralph Carter Park.
The decision divided the council, with Mayor Milissa Holland, council members Nick Klufas and Bob Cuff in favor, and Jack Howell and Eddie Branquinho opposed.
The item drew a contingent of pickleball-playing residents to the meeting, most of whom did not like the city’s decision to not build two courts previously planned for Holland Park, though six will be built at Ralph Carter Park. Some unspoken prejudice may have lurked behind the opposition: Ralph Carter Park is in the R-Section and draws on a substantial minority and black population. It’s been the scene of racially tinged tensions in 2011 and 2015. Holland Park is in the whiter F Section.
The additions at Holland Park will provide “all of the amenities that the community has been talking about for years,” Interim Manager Beau Falgout said–playground zones, the splash pad (which is intended to fit in the architecture of the park so as to reflect Florida’s larger topography), lighting for horseshoe, volleyball, tennis, racquetball, pickleball and shuffleboard courts, bocce ball court rehabilitation and new covering, a maintenance building, renovation of Pavilion 3 and to restrooms.
BBI Construction management, the contractor for Phase 2 at Holland Park, had initially submitted a $7 million plan. The cost was too high for the city, whose staffers worked with the contractor to bring down the cost to $5.14 million. The original $600,000 cost at Ralph Carter Park was also brought down.
Branquinho decried the high costs, especially when contrasted with the city’s difficulties in securing the necessary millions to upgrade its public works facility, where safety rather than play is at issue. Some of Branquinho’s numbers were off, but his point remained: “I want to make sure that’s not just going to be for amenities.”
Howell had “a major issue” with the splash park, recalling his time in Jacksonville when he supervised ocean rescue and experienced the city’s opening of a splash park. “It was a nightmare,” he said. “I had to provide lifeguards there not for drowning but for first aid from scrapes and falls and having broken arms, parents don’t wash their kids, the other problem we had is kids were tracking dirt which in turn tracked in mud. The filtration system was a nightmare to deal with.” He said residents have access to the ocean and to a city pool. The splash park, he said, is not needed.
Klufas acknowledged the issues with splash parks–in the past. A lot of the safety issues with such parks have been re-engineered. “Kids do enjoy splash pads, and you can’t take a toddler to the ocean, and that’s really where we’re lacking a bunch of options for younger parents in Palm Coast, we don’t really have amenities for the zero to 4 year olds.”
For the second straight council meeting Howell, whose own filtration system often falters, condescended to Klufas, first lecturing him about parenting, then telling him that he lived through something Klufas didn’t.
Public sentiment was largely opposed to the plans. An E-Section resident criticized the city’s decision to forego pickleball courts at Holland Park and favor a splash pad instead, saying splash pads likely won’t be used in cold weather, the way Pickleball courts can be, among other issues. Others were also critical of the city’s decision. “We need dedicated courts, we have none in the city,” one said, even though the city is adding pickleball courts–just not where they want them. A P-Section resident who was critical of the decision, and who would have had readier access to Ralph Carter Park, said the courts should have been placed “in a convenient location where there are restaurants, hotels,” which could bring revenue to the city. “Splash pads, they won’t add to our economy, but pickleball can.” Others contrasted the city’s focus on water conservation with its plan for an amenity that would use a lot of water.