Advocates hope for recreational fields
Contrary to previous reports, the idea of renovating the Hawk Missile Site into recreational fields is not dead in the water. Although Commissioner Billy Wardlow called the potential $4.9 million project “too far out of reach” at the last city commission meeting, parents and advocates for more recreational fields are not taking “no” for an answer.
The issue is gaining traction with a newly developed Facebook page “Youth Recreation Action Committee,” and a petition demanding the city address the issue. The committee is claiming the 43.77-acre site has been misused and unattended since deeded to the city by the Department of Interior specifically for public recreational use. Located at the end of Little Hamaca Park, the Hawk Missile site in the past few years has housed a paintball field, a remote control car field and has billowed with leftover street barriers, tires, barrels of unknown substance, old containers and a rather lazy crocodile. Inarguably, it looks more like a junkyard than a city park.
“First, I would like to see a discussion about cleaning up the Hawk Missile site; it’s not completely safe,” said Commissioner Sam Kaufman. “Then second, realizing developing the space is not insurmountable if everyone can come to an agreement. It’s a reality, there is definitely a lack of field space for kids.”
Kaufman is trying to find viable options between the city and parents by holding a forum at Poinciana School on Sept. 5 from 5:30 to 8 p.m. – the night before the next Commission meeting. He admits he is not entirely sure where the price of $4.9 million came from with plans for two fields and 12 pickleball courts, but believes renovating the site can be done in stages for less money. For example, creating one turf field to start would be in the range of $600,000 to $ 700,000. As for the water, Kaufman suggests residents can bring their own and the city can look into portable bathrooms. Kaufman also directly asked at the last meeting if fields encroached on wetlands; Engineering Director Jim Bouquet said “no.”
It was Bouquet and Senior Project Manager Steve McAlearney at the meeting who initially outlined the site’s hurdles as conservation easements, land use controls, restriction for lighting tower height by federal aviation rules, permit issues and lastly, no water supply to provide bathrooms. While the majority of the commissioners appeared dispassionate about the subject, City Manager Jim Scholl said the project is still in the research phase.
“We will respond formally at the next commission meeting,” he said. “The $4.9 million estimate to build fields was an estimate that is still the planning factor. However, we have not heard from the FAA about light towers. We have environmental obligations that may also be a show stopper. We are not done with the evaluation. It will take time.”
District 2 meeting on field space for youth sports
5:30 to 8 p.m.
This committee feels wholeheartedly that the city of Key West is in dire need of an Open Spaces and Recreation Master Plan. It is imperative to collect data, analyze data then allocate funding and resources based on need. ” – Youth Recreation Action Committee