Mayor plans to revitalize Tampa park with BP oil spill settlement money

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – The creation of Curtis Hixon Park helped revitalize Downtown Tampa. Now there are plans to try and do the same thing at a park on the west side of the Hillsborough River.

Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park has been around for decades. Now, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn has an ambitious plan to transform the park.

“It is bold. It is big. It is the largest undertaking as a city we have undertaken in terms of a park,” Buckhorn said.

The 23-acre park would get new athletic fields, tennis and basketball courts, an area for concerts, a dog park and a family picnic area under the proposal.

Janet Richardson has lived blocks from the park for 25 years. “That park alone, it means so much to the neighborhood, and I know it’s just not me saying it, so many other people that I have actually seen think it actually brings the community together,” Richardson said.

Florida State Rep. Edwin Narain represents West Tampa. He believes the park could be a boom on the west side of the Hillsborough River.

“You are looking at an area that is on the way back up. This is a historically African-American neighborhood. You still have a lot of the original owners that live here, and I think by redeveloping that park you are also going to have to redevelop the area,” Narain said.

The city would spend $35 million to remake the park, with a little less than half coming from BP oil spill settlement money.

“I couldn’t think of a better way to spend money that is being paid by a company that almost destroyed the environment, to now being put to good use to recreate a natural environment,” Buckhorn said.

Melvin Horton has been coming to the park since the 1980s. “Bringing a whole new different environment to this area will be a beautiful thing. We need this. change is good,” Horton said.

If the city council okays the plan at Thursday’s meeting, construction could start right way and be finished in 2017.

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