TRINITY - For at least 10 years, ideas for a county super park in the Trinity area have remained stuck in the mud of wetlands on Starkey Ranch property.
County officials believe, however, the latest plan for a smaller, district park stands a good chance of going to the design phase later this year.
Substantial hurdles remain to the concept that would shoehorn an elementary and middle school next to the park.
"The site is almost the same (area) the county was looking at back in 2003," Rick Buckman, Pasco County parks and recreation director, said last week. The property roughly lies north of State Road 54, between Odessa and Longleaf.
The county rejected buying the initial, larger tract of about 120 acres back in April 2004. The low-lying land would have needed so much fill dirt that county officials balked at the high price tag of about $4.3 million for site preparation, more than twice the price of $1.8 million for the land alone.
The proposed district park now would still require fill dirt, but this time the park would become part of a much bigger project, Buckman said. A huge housing development is contemplated for the area that would incorporate the park on a much smaller parcel.
In fact, developers had requested a Starkey Ranch master planned unit development pre-application meeting with Pasco County for this past Monday. County records show up to 5,050 residential units or apartments could ultimately be built if a development permit is granted. Discussions already are taking place on a traffic impact study.
The big sticking point remains whether enough space exists for co-location of two schools on the site.
"I will be meeting with our architects and civil engineers to determine what works," Ray Gadd, assistant superintendent for administration and operations for the Pasco School District, said in a message last week.
"We have a small site to squeeze an elementary and middle school on to but I am committed to this co-location and I am optimistic it will all get worked out," Gadd added.
"The architect has been working on a preliminary layout since a meeting held last week," Gadd said. "All options (are) on table," including a combined school with grades kindergarten through eighth grade.
"If this concern is adequately addressed in a timely fashion, park design could start this calendar year," Buckman said.
If obstacles are overcome, the first phase of a park project could include as many as six multipurpose fields, according to Buckman.
One plan also calls for five baseball fields, open play area with playground and shelter, parking, maintenance area and other facilities. The first phase price tag could be in the ball park of $10 million, Buckman expects.
Depending on co-location with schools, the park ultimately could offer up to 10 multipurpose fields and six baseball fields at some point in the future, Buckman added.
"The train is gathering steam," Pasco County Administrator Michele Baker told county commissioners at a July 16 workshop, but many decisions remain.