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Date of Issue: April 19, 2007

No 'pocket parks' for Anna Maria

In what some might say was a case of "preaching to the choir," Anna Maria residents at the April 11 city commission meeting ripped a proposal by Commissioner Jo Ann Mattick to purchase the property at 703 N. Shore Drive owned by Harry and Karen Lockwood through a Florida Communities Trust grant and convert it to a botanical garden and park.

But wait.

The Lockwoods had already withdrawn their offer to the city to consider such a sale (The Islander, April 4) following some communications with some of their neighbors.

Mattick admitted that her proposal to commissioners at their March 22 meeting for approval to pursue the grant to purchase the Lockwood property might have been made a bit hastily, but the grant deadline was in May and time was of the essence. In hindsight, she said, her proposal should have been announced prior to the March 22 meeting to gain more public input.

But the Lockwoods aren’t to blame, Mattick said. She approached them about the idea, since their property is already for sale.

"I had the best of intentions and I didn’t expect it would descend to name calling and vilification" of herself and the Lockwoods.

Mattick asked commissioners if they wanted to pursue purchase of other parcels for "pocket parks," but that opened the door for residents along North Shore Drive to speak out against the already-withdrawn proposal to pursue the grant to purchase the Lockwood property.

Numerous speakers indicated that turning the Lockwood property into a public park would only bring more traffic to a residential area, increase crime and ruin the "Old Florida" character of the neighborhood.

Resident Bill Partridge, a neighbor of the Lockwoods, said he was "disappointed" that the story was printed in the local media, while Randall Stover said the media has "no responsibility to tell the truth."

Harry Lockwood said it’s time to move on, get over it and keep friendships. If the proposal had been presented to the public in the normal fashion, perhaps the outcome would have been different, he indicated.

"But I’m not going against my neighbors. They are all great people and I want to keep it that way," he said. The property will remain for sale as a single-family residence with an accompanying lot.

While commissioners agreed that the idea of purchasing property for a public park was laudable, Commissioner Duke Miller pointed out that most of the potential lots in the city that might be converted to a public park are in residential areas. It’s not a good idea to create parks in these neighborhoods, he indicated. Besides, the city already has six public parks or facilities for residents, Miller noted.