Gateway park’s foes dominate meeting
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 owners.

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: and

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 minutes.

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 permitting work.
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.