PALM VALLEY — Thanks, but no thanks.
Ultimately, those were the words uttered by members of the Palm Valley City Council last night when they declined to take up resident Rollins Koppel on his offer to build a park on the 1-acre city-owned lot on the southwest side of the community.
For months, Koppel, a longtime resident of the city, has talked with officials about funding a park off of Nicklaus and Palm Valley Drive, and providing up to $100,000 to complete it.
The problem — Koppel wants the facility to be a place for children to play.
But, the residents of the immediate area and the majority of those in Palm Valley, want the area to remain green space to include some benches, trees and shrubs.
Last month’s meeting saw about 30 residents come out in force to voice their opinions in what often became free-for-all discussion. Last night was much more reserved and the conversation much shorter.
In March, on the heels of the sometimes heated meeting, the city council sent city attorney Jason Mann back to talk with Koppel about removing the playground equipment from the proposed contract with the city. At the time, it was asked if Koppel was interested in providing funds for a park that did not include that type of equipment, including adult exercise equipment.
Last night, the City Council revealed pictures Mann and Koppel had looked at that involves play type equipment for children, but using natural landscaping and materials to create that.
“That is something he insists on — the family aspect,” Mann said.
As the photos were being passed around to the audience members, which were just a handful this time around, Mayor George Rivera said these were just “ideas” and that there was no commercial equipment involved. These rocks and natural materials, like wood and earth moving could be an inspiration for the creation of a park.
City Council member John Widger was the first to respond.
“It looks like great landscaping,” he said. “But it also looks like playground equipment.”
“Yes, he wants something for children,” Mann said. “This is intended to be a neighborhood park.”
Others in the audience disagree with that idea and according to a community survey completed recently, a majority of residents in the immediate area of the park and throughout the entire city see it as something else.
“Some of this is beautiful,” said opponent and resident Lynne Lerberg about the pictures shown. “But the point is this is just an inappropriate place for a public playground.”
Resident John Topp, whose backyard is right up against the park, agreed.
“I appreciate Jason working with Koppel and coming up with the natural playscapes,” he said. “But that doesn’t change the fact that this is a playground for children and that’s the problem.”
Resident Charlie Ramsey said approving a park with any type of playground would go against those who filled out the survey.
“People flat out don’t want this,” he said.
City Council members agreed.
“I don’t think we can vote for it,” Debe Wright said. “Our constituents don’t want a playground.”
City officials then voted 4-0 to reject the offer from Koppel to build the park.
It has been Koppel’s dream to build a park in memory of his late wife, Amalie
A 2010 Walk of Fame inductee, the successful attorney and banker, established a charitable foundation whose gifts have made projects in the community a reality.
A survey was sent to 677 Palm Valley residents and returned by 158, a solid return rate of 23 percent.
According to some, results clearly showed residents of the city and the immediate area near the proposed park would rather it remain what it is — a green belt or bird and butterfly area.
A total of 44 percent made their first choice for the property to be left as is.
Nearly 60 percent of the respondents from the immediate area wanted it left as is.