Dozens of people looked across pastel buckets, 10 shiny gold tokens in hand, thinking about what they wanted to improve most within their community.
Forty-five people living around Duval Park (1701 NE Eighth Ave.) and the Clarence R. Kelly Community Center (520 NE 21st St.) attended an open house, hosted on Wednesday by members of the City of Gainesville Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs (PRCA) Department to give feedback on the proposed designs for the park and community center.
In January, 175 residents responded to an online survey to outline some changes they would like to see in Duval Park and the Kelly Center. Some of the proposed changes included displays of public art, more playground equipment and a possible trail between the two landmarks.
Duval Park was rated in the survey based on proximity, access and linkages; comfort and image; uses, activity and sociability; and sustainability. The park was given a rating of 74 out of a possible 100, and the Kelly Center was given a rating of 79.
In the PRCA master plan, which was approved in November of 2012, Duval Park and the Kelly Center were outlined as projects that needed to be addressed.
The Kelly Center was built during the 1950s and was originally created as a grocery store, it was then later turned into the Northeast Recreation Center. The center was named after Clarence R. Kelly when he passed away in 2011. Kelly was the director of the Northeast Recreation Center for 35 years.
The city developed Duval Park about five years ago as a stormwater park designed to collect water after it storms.
But even though the park is young, its boardwalks are deteriorating. The boardwalks at Duval Park are presently closed because the wood is splintering apart.
“The Kelly Center is a very, very old center. It was identified in the master plan as needing to be updated and upgraded and renovated. The significant need existed,” said Michelle Park, assistant director of PRCA. “The Duval Park was developed approximately five years ago as a stormwater park. Even though it gets some use, it’s a park that is underutilized.”
The estimated cost of the designs will come after the final conceptual designs are created. The plans for Duval Park and the Kelly Center will be combined into one plan around April. Early summer conceptual plans, including cost estimates, will then be presented at a city commission meeting. Funding for the designs will come from the Wild Spaces Public Places half-cent sales tax.
“We are always looking for additional funding,” Park said, “and certainly we will look at any potential grants. … We are always definitely looking at how to leverage more dollars, but not asking our citizens for more money, but utilizing more grant funds.”
Lynda Johnson, a member of the Greater Duval Neighborhood Association, said that she would like to see a new building be built rather than the current Kelly Center be renovated because she thinks the center is too close to the road, which is about 20 feet away.
Johnson went to the open house specifically to see what the new concepts could provide for elderly people in the area.
“We need each other, and so that’s my mission is to help the seniors,” Johnson said. “Of course I want to see the young people do well, too, but by the time you get to be our age, people kind of forget about you and what your needs are. I’m focusing on the senior group.”