City to 'beautify' Royal Melvin Heritage Park

Matt Algarin

Royal Melvin Heritage Park is set to receive a facelift.

"The object is to have ADA access from U.S. 98 to the harbor, and to beautify the property," Community Redevelopment Agency Project Manager David Campbell said during Monday's CRA Board meeting.

With $241,000 available to them as part of the 2013 capital improvement budget, city leaders voted unanimously to make "interim" improvements to the city's harbor front park, which was purchased in 2006 with the help of a $2.3 million Florida Forever grant. The City Council took out a $3.45 million loan in 2006 to buy the land. The total purchase price was $4.6 million.

A conceptual plan has been created in-house for the park that sits between Dewey Destin's and The Fisherman's Wharf restaurants. Looking at the plan, the city would add landscaping on both sides of the park, Bermuda sod, a 10-foot wide sidewalk, benches, fencing, light fixtures and a circular sitting area with benches and pavers.

The project will also include a sign along U.S. Hwy. 98 that says "Welcome to Royal Melvin Heritage Park," Campbell told board members.

As she thumbed through the plans, CRA Board Chairwoman Sandy Trammell had a few recommendations, such as having a circular bench around the sitting area instead of three separate benches. She also said the city should put more lights along the sidewalk.

The pavers that are proposed on the plan were also of concern to Trammell, who said they can be troublesome to people who might use a cane or a wheelchair. She suggested using another type of material to make it safer.

"I know it's more expensive, but it's less of a safety hazard if you have a smooth surface," she said.

Councilman Tuffy Dixon suggested that the city run the proposed plans by the neighboring properties to make sure they knew what was going to happen along the property.

"This will affect some people," he said.

The park hasn't seen many improvements since it was purchased, mostly due to a lack of funding. The interim improvements would be a start in the right direction.

"Unfortunately, the city does not have the resources now to implement the conceptual plan that was approved by the CRA Board in the past," City Manager Maryann Ustick said.

The parks original plans call for a variety of improvements and amenities, including an amphitheater.

Work on the interim improvements is expected to begin sometime in FY2013.