Gateway residents protest park plan
Crowd of 100 turns out at supervisors meeting
By Don Manley
Published August 17, 2007

Gateway residents are rising up to make clear their opposition to the community park proposed by the Gateway Services Community Development District.

About 100 residents of the roughly 4,500-acre upscale development off Daniels Parkway, many with stop-sign shaped stickers with the slogan "Stop the Park," attended Thursday's meeting of the district's board of supervisors. They were there to demonstrate displeasure with plans for the park, which would surround the existing community pool located off Gateway Boulevard.

The five-member board is considering a 16-acre recreational facility that would augment the Olympic-sized pool with amenities 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

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.

The district was formed in 1986, the year when Gateway's master developer, Bonita Springs-based WCI, began construction there. It has the authority to levy taxes or assessments, or both, on property owners. In Gateway, its responsibilities include storm water management, water and irrigation, sewer and wastewater management and street lights, as well as overseeing and maintaining recreational areas.

Pete Doragh, board chairman, has said the site of the proposed park was set aside by WCI for use as a recreational facility, although the pool is the only feature so far. He has said the board has been investigating creating a full-blown park several years.

And he has said the board is merely investigating building the park and what it would cost, but has not made a decision.

Park opponents cite a host of reasons for their position, including cost; desire to have the question of whether to build a park be voted on; belief some of its planned features such as the tennis courts duplicate what's available within Gateway; and concern some of those proposed features, such as the number of tennis courts and the recreation building, exceed community needs.

The issue has led to the creation of two Web sites by residents: stop the and

Opponents also have circulated petitions to be presented to the board and created a volunteer group called the Stop the Park Committee.

The park proposal was not on the agenda, but because of the turnout, supervisor Bob Nielson said he would allow one of the proposal's opponents to speak.

Doragh and fellow supervisor Patty Gedra did not attend.

Rod Senior, who has helped lead the opposition, said more than 600 petitions against the project have been presented to the board.

He said the board's vote to enter into a $590,000 contract with Johnson Engineering "sends an alarming signal to the community that this board intends to move forward regardless of the obvious large opposition. Surely to approve such a large expenditure of public funds for professional engineering services, this board should ensure that, number one, you have the support of the community that you're supposed to represent, and number two, that you have formally voted in favor of the project, per se."

Senior asked what residents can do to change the board's mind.

Nielson said the issues raised by Senior would be addressed at the board's next meeting.

Supervisor Roger Sherman said the turnout "really shows us that you are concerned."