Palm Coast’s Belle Terre Park and Frieda Zamba Pool need ‘total rebuilding’, but council wary of another expansion
“I’m afraid to ask how many millions we’re going to have to spend on this,” Palm Coast City Councilman Eddie Branquinho said at a workshop on Tuesday after hearing a rather gloomy report about Belle Terre Park. of the city and swimming. pool, long known as Frieda Zamba.
He should also be afraid of the canyon cracks running through the park’s three tennis courts, cracks wide and deep enough to pose a clear and present danger to players’ ankles, and more.
The city’s parks and recreation manager and a design consultant are recommending what amounts to a near-clean sweep of the nearly 40-year-old municipal facility – tearing down and rebuilding its buildings, replacing the winding 25-meter swimming pool by an Olympic-equivalent quality, and demolition and reconstruction of tennis and racquet courts.
It looked like a carbon copy of discussions at the Flagler County School Board since 2019 about the nearby unrelated Belle Terre Swim and Racquet Club, which also has decrepit tennis courts, an aging pool, poorly configured parking lot, and a little identity crisis. The school district hopes to get more support from the city, or a sense that the two agencies could work together on their facilities, whether by combining certain services – notably aquatic services – or even by pooling resources: the two facilities, mere blocks from each other as the crow flies duplicates services and, at least for the school district, the racquet club creates an unsustainable burden.
But neither Palm Coast’s administrative staff nor members of the city council — including John Fanelli, a school district administrator who has attended countless presentations on the Belle Terre Swim and Racquet Club, and who now serves on the council — did We did not discuss the problems and interests of the district, nor any possibilities of collaboration whatsoever between the two sports facilities.
The silence may have been an unintentional albeit considerable oversight. “The city and county are working together on a county-wide approach to amenities,” Mayor David Alfin said in a text today, suggesting those conversations may still be ahead. “Heidi and Denise make a great Lego match that improves the quality of life for all Flagler residents. They have my full support. Heidi Petito is the County Administrator, Denise Bevan the City Manager.
An actual dollar figure for the rehabilitation of Belle Terre Park was never included in the presentation to the board, although it probably would not have been as large as the money spent on the expansion of the tennis center of the city, a facility that is half younger and used more sparingly and exclusively, only by members, unlike the more freely accessible Parc de Belle Terre. There, only the entrance to the swimming pool is paying, and very modest ($4 for adults, $3 for seniors and young people).
The Belle Terre park and the aquatic center are dilapidated and in decrepit places, but not dangerous, reassured the elected officials of the city, including the fire chief. The facility may limp for a few years, which seems to be exactly what the board will allow it to do, once the security issues are ironed out. The board may be wary of another uprising over a costly parks upgrade when, moments earlier in the same meeting, it heard of the catastrophic transformation of the $5.1 million wading pool to Holland Park into a mess just weeks after it opened less than a year ago. . (See: “Splash Pad Boondoggle at Holland Park: Council plans to sue builders and remove $5.1m piece of equipment.”)
“Let’s make it safe and usable in the short term,” Alfin said of Belle Terre Park, and then “let’s identify how big and bold we can do with the aquatic center that works well for people in the city of Palm.” Coast”. But both cost and funding sources need to be found, Alfin said. He clarified: the sources of revenue should be other than property tax revenue. He also clarified that the big overhaul won’t be happening anytime soon.
“As we grow, I don’t think there’s a doubt in the mind of a single council member that a full-fledged, full-fledged aquatics facility will be in our future at some distant date. And I think we should consider the presentation we heard today and what needs to be done at minimal cost to be a transition bridge to this future aquatic center. In 2018, the board was about to approve spending $100,000 to imagine what an aquatic and recreation center master plan would look like. (See that contract here.) But that killed the idea the following week, when it became clear that no such recreation center could be paid for, let alone maintained. The city has been imagining one since 2011, with little progress.
It leaves to do with what is there now.
Belle Terre Park, which includes the municipal swimming pool known as Frieda Zamba Pool, was built in 1985 as a county park and transferred to the city in 2001. Racquetball, handball and tennis courts were added. built sometime before 2007, when Buddy Taylor Middle School expanded with the addition of the shared cafeteria and classroom building between Buddy Taylor and Wadsworth Elementary. The one that eliminated access to the park from Belle Terre Parkway, and removed what had been a shared parking lot between the school and the park.
Today, parking at the pool is insufficient, Hirst said, while school buses pass through the park in the morning and afternoon. It’s not a problem with the pool in the morning when it’s not open, but it’s open during the afternoon bus ride. “So we’re seeing a bit of limited access for users entering from the back,” Hirst said. “So if you walked in and wanted to swim at lunchtime, you’re probably stuck for a good half hour before you can get up, just because of the passing bus traffic. Depending on foot traffic, buses can practically back up and have a traffic jam all the way to our parking lot. »
Wadsworth Elementary’s line of motorists create their own challenges, roaming the Belle Terre Park parking lot and creating “a lot of congestion” morning and afternoon, interfering with city pool programs like aqua aerobics aqua zumba and swimming lessons. “Some people don’t even bother to come in and use our programs because of the amount of congestion and traffic,” Hirst said.
The pool was used by just over 20,000 people in 2020-21. It is used by high school swim teams. Tennis courts, also used for pickle ball, and racquet balls are open to the public at no charge, ball diamonds had 22 court reservations in 2021-22. The city also has an administrative building there, but it is too unsuited to the administrative needs of the establishment: the city wishes to remove it and build a better one in its place. The locker room is structurally deficient, with deteriorating plumbing, no handicapped accessible showers, lots of rusting beam supports, so any repairs probably wouldn’t be worth the cost. “So our recommendation is again, this building needs to be replaced,” said Sam Elcheikh, who heads the Orlando office of OLC Designs. “There is no cash value in this building.”
The swimming pool is also 38 years old. Swimming pools usually last between 40 and 50 years. It cracks. He needs to resurface. The pool deck is a patchwork of several additions and expansions, and presents a few safety hazards, while the pool itself isn’t deep enough for competitive swimming. “So even if you upgrade the pool, you’re going to end up with a design that doesn’t really serve the community,” Elsheikh said. The pool could be a “learning-to-swim pool”, but not much more – not even a child-friendly place, he said. The playground is in better shape except when it rains and floods, and it’s a walk to the bathrooms. The tennis and racquet courts are so badly deteriorated that the city recommends demolition and reconstruction.
“Is it dangerous to operate this facility today?” Alfin asked. It’s not, Hirst told him, so users aren’t at risk.
“It’s not dangerous to operate, but it’s not ideal,” is how Council member Nick Klufas sees it. “The layout is very outdated and the proximity to, let’s just say, toilets, play area, swimming pool, no shower: it’s just not a modern design. It certainly does not meet the expectations of the high level of community and amenities of Palm Coast, which we represent. He is in favor of having a facility that can support city swim teams and council member field trips to the facility to see it first hand.
Meanwhile, the administration will gather more solid numbers on usage of the facility’s tennis and racquet courts, as well as its swimming pool, and more solid estimates of future repair or construction costs. . But don’t let your imagination run laps in an Olympic pool just yet.