Tourism council seeks Navarre Park reevaluation

The Tourism Development Council (TDC) is asking for a second look at funding of the Navarre Park Master Plan putting the park plan in limbo once again.

Roughly $3.6 million of funding discussed to improve the park’s parking lots, splash pad, play equipment, add a restroom and build a new Panhandle Butterfly House vivarium and learning center. Under a funding plan for Phase I approved in October of last year, the majority of those funds would come from the county tourism development tax or bed tax.

The TDC is an advisory board that makes recommendations to the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) on expenditure of these funds.

It took seven hours of deliberation for the TDC to agree to the current Navarre Park plan, but when asked to work toward finalizing a loan for the project the TDC back pedaled.

That was prompted by council member and County Commissioner Sam Parker who acts as the representative for the BOCC on the TDC.

Among his concerns was the continuing cost of the Panhandle Butterfly House in new building. He said even after they funded the $1 million for the new PBH building, the county would still be asked to pay insurance, utilities and other expenses.

Parker also voiced concerns that the discussion was highly contentious between the then sitting board members and that the funding felt rushed for the park. Less than two months after being presented with the overall $7 million plan, the TDC was asked to approve a final funding plan.

Council member Jack Sanborn was among those members on the TDC at the time, and he agreed that the process felt rushed.

“It did feel rushed,” Sanborn said.

Sanborn also said the disrepair at the park that largely drove the plan may be at the fault of District 4 Commissioner Rob Williamson because the commissioner withheld recreation funds from regular maintenance.

The TDC unanimously voted to have the plan brought back before the commissioners for reevaluation of tourism tax expenditures on the plan. Parker said he would be sure that the item made it to discussion for the Monday meeting.

Sanborn added the caveat that the TDC generally supports improvements to Navarre Park.

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