A new project in Belleview is splashing onto the scene, and the support of Belleview residents is making it possible.
The Belleview Splash Park, a community project that will eventually become a water park play area for children, began as an idea from one of Belleview’s former commissioners, Wilma Loar.
After seven years of trying to get the splash park idea before commission, Loar received the city’s approval four months ago to begin work on the splash park.
Commissioner Ronald Livsey said the project is being funded through
donations and fundraisers, and about $73,000 has been raised for the splash
Livsey said the park is still in its early planning phases and he is unsure of when it
will be built.
“I don’t think anyone could give a date for when you’ll be able to jump in and splash
somebody,” he said. “We’re a conservative town. We want to do this right without
breaking the bank and making sure residents won’t have to pay for it all through
Belleview Mayor Christine Dobkowski said even though the splash park will be
free of charge once it is built, she believes it will help the city economically.
“It’s going to draw people in from outside the city limits who will come in to use the
splash park, eat at local restaurants and buy gas,” she said.
Dobkowski said the project is a “win-win,” and she has seen more support for the
park from the community than for any other past city projects.
“I think the park has gotten an incredible amount of support,” she said. “It’s
refreshing and nice to see so many people come together and make it happen.”
Gerri Gerthe, founder of the nonprofit organization Florida Kids Helping Kids, has been spearheading the drive for community support.
Gerthe has organized numerous fundraisers, found sponsors and encouraged local businesses to donate money to the cause.
She said her strategy for fundraising success is to show how the project will
benefit the entire community, and then they all hop on board.
“I didn’t want to focus on my organization, but focus on the community coming
together and building a better tomorrow for our kids,” she said. “Our funds are
growing and we are actively supporting each other.”
The park will not only bring economic development to Belleview, Gerthe said, but it will also provide an alternative go-to spot for kids.
“For the most part, everyone’s excited to see it bringing more business to Belleview,”
she said. “They see it as a place for kids to hang out and stay out of trouble. A lot of
kids get into vandalism, are loitering in stores and crashing into abandoned houses
because there’s no place just for kids here and there’s nothing for them to do.”
Travis Thorpe, event coordinator for Pasta Faire, a local restaurant and sponsor for
the splash park, agreed and said that the park will help cater to kids’ needs.
“There’s really nothing here for the kids,” he said. “My whole theory is this –
something is better than nothing and these kids desperately need a place to go and
enjoy. More than that, these kids deserve it.”
Thorpe said because the park will be free, its upkeep will fall on the city and
won’t cost the taxpayers any additional money.
The park will be something Belleview can be proud of, Thorpe said, and while it will
cost about a $250,000, he anticipates the city of Belleview to keep supporting the cause regardless of how long it takes.
“I think once it’s here, it’s going to be something,” he said. “I envision this as a Kevin
Costner moment in ‘Field of Dreams,’ where ‘if you build it, they will come’.”