Westlake Governments Move Forward On New Regional Park

Designs for the planned park in Westlake.

Members of the Westlake City Council and the Seminole Improvement District (SID) Board of Supervisors have settled on a framework for a regional park they intend to construct along the west side of Seminole Pratt Whitney Road.

“It looks phenomenal,” Westlake Mayor JohnPaul O’Connor said as he studied the design. “I’m very excited.”

The consensus reached at a Tuesday, Sept. 12 joint meeting allows SID to write the contracts for $700,000 in stormwater drainage work that will begin to shape the park directly south of Seminole Ridge High School.

It also allows the landscape design firm of Cotleur & Hearing to draw up more detailed plans that city and SID officials can use to seek funding from the Florida Legislature during its 2024 session, as well as a variety of grants.

The park will likely be done in four to five phases over eight to 10 years, said Kenneth Cassel, who manages both the municipal government and the special district.

Phase 1 will cost $5 to $6 million, SID President Scott Massey said.

“SID can more easily float a bond, but the bond payments end up coming out of our residents,” O’Connor said. “The more grants and other funding sources we can find, the better off we are.”

Cassel agreed. “We want to look around and see how we can get the biggest bang for our buck,” he said.

Already in place are three linear, north-south lakes that provide a barrier between the 50-acre site and the busy roadway. The entrance and exit from the park will be tucked between those lakes, which will feature four aerators/fountains.

Once underway, that stormwater work should take approximately 60 days, Cassel said.

The park will include a berm that runs along the west side, shielding it from properties on the other side of the M-2 Canal. It also will be part of the landscaping to obscure two massive retention tanks for irrigation water used by the district.

The berm will provide a niche for a concert stage that would look out on a wide, flat, uncluttered space where concertgoers can congregate to enjoy music and the city’s annual FourthFest Independence Day celebration with fireworks launched from the park’s northwest corner.

O’Connor has said he hopes that the park will be far enough along to be used on July 4, 2024.

Massey suggested the area also could be used for large touring concerts.

“The area could accommodate 5,000 to 10,000 people,” he said. “There’s no other venue like that in the western communities.”

Six soccer/sports fields — four in Phase 1 — will be added to the large central space, along with the infrastructure to later install field lighting.

A six-foot-wide asphalt path will frame the entire area.

On the east side of the park, part of Phase 1 will be installing paved parking for at least 45 cars, 90 golf carts and more than a dozen food trucks with utility hook-ups. Eventually, parking is planned for 275 cars and 190 golf carts. Restrooms also will be constructed during Phase 1.

In time, plans call for a shaded tot-lot; basketball, pickle ball, tennis, racquetball and beach volleyball courts; a smaller concert area for more intimate shows; and — in a last-minute addition thanks to Vice Mayor Greg Langowski — a dog park.

A community/multi-purpose/possible government center of at least 7,000 square feet also is anticipated in a later phase.

“This is a much, much needed park,” O’Connor said. “Let’s hit the ground running and get this done.”