PASCO COUNTY, FL (CW44 News At 10) – Pasco County taxpayers are seeing some of their dollars come to fruition through local parks. Some are already making use of those spaces before project completion, like local live music artist, Peter Cleveland, who was playing his guitar on a bench at Eagle Point Park where he spends much of his time.

It’s one of several parks he’s seen undergo a makeover while strumming away in his usual spot.

“We currently have 122 projects that we’re going to do. We’ve got 37 of them done,” said Curtis Franklin, the Project Manager for Pasco County Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources. As part of a 5 to 6 year project, millions of taxpayer dollars are being used for the parks’ maintenance. “We are behind and doing a lot of the maintenance that we had to get done so as a way to play catch-up we identified several projects and came up with the amount of about $20 million and said ‘hey public what do you guys think about this’,” said Franklin.

After receiving overwhelming support from the public, the project was a go back in 2018. CW44’s Andrea Alvarez sat down with park officials who say they’re finally catching up.

“We are playing catch-up I mean that’s the big thing. We’ve been so far behind in deferred maintenance due to limited budgets and everything else going all the way back to the recession in 2008 that, you know, some of the stuff just wasn’t getting the regular maintenance but it needed to,” said Franklin.

The project was broken up into phases. Right now, we’re in phase one.
“We currently have another 12 playgrounds planned, we’ve done projects like the fishing pier here out at Eagle Point. Four new concession stands that are going in, we are renovating an observation tower, we’ve got a new seawall,” said Franklin, all while minimizing their footprint. “We put in an impervious surface parking lot out here so water doesn’t pool up. We didn’t pour asphalt, we actually have Geo block with crushed shells on top. It’s so much more environmentally friendly,” said Franklin.

Franklin tells CW44 it’s one of the few means of business not negatively impacted by the pandemic. “COVID-19 has had an impact with some of our contractors and some of the people that supply certain services here but there’s an advantage to it and that the usage has gone down a little bit so we’ve been able to actually recover some of the maintenance. We’ve tried to take advantage of it,” said Franklin.

Mr. Franklin hopes taxpayers are seeing the value of their money in the case that other ideas may arise in the future. “We want to give the public what they deserve. We have infrastructure that is aging and you have to take care of it and this is one way that we are able to do that.”