COURTESY of the NEWS-PRESS
Gateway park’s foes dominate
By Don Manley
Published September 7, 2007
Passionate opinions surrounding a proposed
community park in Gateway were in evidence Thursday at a special meeting held by
the community’s governing body.
Opponents far outnumbered supporters at the session, which was held in Gateway
Trinity Lutheran Church’s 400-seat sanctuary to accommodate the crowd. More
than 100 people stood in the sanctuary’s foyer and outside the building,
listening in as fellow residents addressed the Gateway Services Community
Development District’s supervisors during the lengthy public comment session
that kicked off the meeting.
The five-member board is considering a 16-acre recreational facility that would
surround the existing community pool located off Gateway Boulevard. Features
such as children’s playgrounds; multi-use ballfields; walking and jogging
trails and picnic pavilions; an amphitheater; a two-story, 8,000-square-foot
recreation building with fitness center and space for community events;
basketball and volleyball courts; and six clay tennis courts, are included in
the preliminary plans.
The price tag is estimated at $7.4 million by the district’s consultant for
the project, Johnson Engineering of Fort Myers. Bonds would be issued to fund
the project with the cost added to assessments paid by Gateway’s property
Opponents question such things as the need for the facility, the accuracy of the
cost projections and why it wasn’t being put to a referendum.
Pete Doragh, the board’s chairman, has said the site of the proposed park was
reserved for that use by WCI, Gateway’s master developer, and that the board
has been investigating creating the park for several years.
The proposal has proven to be controversial, leading to the creation of two Web
sites by residents: stopthepark.com
Opponents also have circulated petitions to be presented to the board and
created a volunteer group called the Stop the Park Committee.
At Thursday’s meeting, Doragh said 30 residents had filled out request forms
to voice their opinions on the matter. Their remarks were limited to three
One after another, the speakers stepped to the podium near the front of the
sanctuary and almost unanimously urged the board to reconsider moving forward
with its investigation into the matter, which includes a recent decision to
enter a roughly $590,000 contract with Johnson Engineering for design and
However, supporters were present.
Nathaniel Oakes told the board and his neighbors that he supported the proposal
to build the park. He said recreation options in Gateway are insufficient for
children, particularly teenagers.
But Rod Senior, who has helped lead the opposition, urged the board to proceed
no further with its plans. He was one of two people who said that a lawsuit
would be filed if the board voted to build the park.