Last year’s $892,000 makeover of Ballast Point Park has accomplished exactly what city officials hoped it would.
Since the work was completed, the “splash pad” has been overrun with children on weekends, happily squealing and laughing as they dodge the water spouts. Parents park strollers in the shade and watch their little ones tumble around the playground. People line the fishing pier, patiently waiting for bites.
“Folks are rediscovering the park and enjoying all its amenities,” said city spokeswoman Ali Glisson. “It’s really a park that has something for everyone, and it has some of the most beautiful views in the city.”
But the surge in popularity has created parking problems. There aren’t enough spaces at the park to accommodate all the cars and boat trailers the crowds bring with them.
City officials are implementing new measures to control the overflow parking issue, which is causing safety concerns and becoming a nuisance for neighbors, Glisson said.
“We’re trying to maximize the available parking we have but keep the people using the park and those in the surrounding neighborhood safe,” Glisson said.
On busy weekends, the parking lots are full and park patrons must park along Interbay Boulevard and neighboring streets.
The city soon will put up signs warning drivers to slow down and watch for children and pedestrians, Glisson said. There also will be signs alerting drivers that they only can parallel park along Interbay Boulevard, which should prevent cars from parking at an angle and protruding into the roadway.
From now on, the boat trailer parking spots near the boat ramp will be reserved only until 1 p.m., Glisson said. After then, they will be open for all vehicles.
“We hope that will continue to allow the boaters to get into the water, and doing that gives us some additional parking options to work with,” she said.
Some neighbors were worried when they heard rumors the city might cut down old oak trees and pave a narrow green space across the street from the park to create more parking, but Glisson said there are no plans to do that right now.
Jerry Miller, president of the Ballast Point Neighborhood Association, said residents are thrilled with the improvements to the neighborhood park, but he thinks more needs to be done about the parking situation than marking parallel spots along Interbay.
“We’re concerned that the solution is not really a solution,” he said.
Miller said he would like city transportation and parks officials to meet with neighbors to discuss other parking options, whether they be expanding existing lots or directing drivers to other parking areas.
Clare Robbins, who lives near the park, said neighbors would welcome such a discussion. There were so many cars parked on her street on Labor Day, she said, that she wasn’t able to have family and friends over because there was nowhere for them to park.
The newly renovated Ballast Point Park has added something special to one of Tampa’s older, more scenic neighborhoods, she said, but the parking situation has become “uncomfortable.”
“The park is probably more successful than what (the city) anticipated,” Robbins said.