During the March 23 city council meeting, the City of Titusville heard from residents concerned about proposed improvements to Parrish Park.
The proposed improvements are a county project that has received two previous hearings of approval. Although the park is located in Titusville, it is managed by the county.
The purpose of the hearing at the meeting was “quasi-judicial”. City council’s objective was to gain information on variances by the applicant in order for the project to commence.
The applicant, Abigail Jorandby, deputy attorney for Brevard County, presented the plan for the improvements. Accompanying her with the presentation was Mary Ellen Donner, Brevard County Parks and Recreations director, Virginia Baker, Brevard County Natural Resources director and engineer and construction team members.
A few of the improvements the county wishes to make include a paved drive aisle, identifiable parking area, dedicated stormwater draining system and pedestrian access.
Joseph M. Lofaso, a county engineer, explained that although the park is currently being used by residents for a variety of activities, there is a problem with parking.
“Firstly, because of the use of the park there is embankment erosion due to boat launching from vehicle trailers. The launching also wears away at the grass holding the sand embankment in place,” said Mr. Lofaso.
He also spoke of water runoff from the Max Brewer Bridge due to its higher elevation which cause flooded potholes due to vehicle traffic in the sand.
The county is requesting variances included in the city code which include a 50-foot Shoreline Protection Set-Back, a 20-foot Landscape Buffer for the park and requests for Overstory Trees Requirements to provide foliage protection.
Sable palms already exist at the park, but the county would require a total of 75 to meet the number required for overstory tree protection and may limit Space X rocket launch viewing.
Residents concerned over what these improvements will do to the parks appeal and environmental attributes were heard in public comments.
Some residents presented images of Fort Pierce’s South Causeway Park, which utilizes dunes and sand over pavement and bollards to keep cars off the shore. Many argued this was a better plan of improvement than what the county was proposing.
Many recreational enthusiasts were concerned the proposed improvements would impede on the parks accessibility for launching kayaks and windsurfing.
“I moved to Titusville specifically to go to Parrish Park. I’m there five days a week,” said Kevin Rosa, resident and windsurfer.
Mr. Rosa’s frequent trips to the park and other accompanying windsurfers attested to the potholes and washout. Mr. Rosa stated that all-terrain vehicles were responsible for most of the present problems the county would like to fix.
He also addressed the county’s desire to prioritize bike paths over water recreation.
“On game day, where are the [kite surfers]? They’re at Parrish Park. On the Super Bowl, where are the wind surfers, they’re at Parrish Park. This is our football, it’s our religion,” he said. “If you take it away from us it’s like you’re taking away our religion and taking away our football.
Environmental concerns were also shared by residents who worry the natural habitats of some animals including horseshoe crabs.
County Commissioner Rita Pritchett of District 1, which includes Titusville, spoke on behalf of the project and how she consulted with local residents concerned the improvements would add strain to the ecosystem and Indian River Lagoon.
“The main objective when we talked was to protect the horseshoe crabs, to really watch over the Indian River Lagoon and to provide an ability for the public to still enjoy the park,” Mrs. Pritchett said.
“We talked about the horseshoe [crabs]. We’re pretty blessed that Fish and Wildlife said this was a good project for the horseshoe crabs. We’re collecting $47 million a year for the lagoon. I take the lagoon very seriously and what we have now is the cars are parked on the dirt, all the oil pours in, all the gas from the motorized vehicles, and that’s going right into the Indian River Lagoon. When we talked about this, we thought about how important it was to get the cars off the beach, back them up and put them on a place where this can be treated. So, when they’re parked back there on the asphalt parking lot, all that water runoff is going to go in a area where it can be stored and treated before it runs into the lagoon.”
After hearing hours of public comments, the majority of which were opposed to the county’s improvements to the park, city council voted unanimously to approve the variances and allow the modifications to proceed.
“To conclude, the communication factor, that’s a two-way street,” said Mayor Dan Diesel. “I think they’re working on the environment, they’re working on recreation and it benefits our area.”
After hours of testimony from residents opposing the improvements., the city concluded that it had no legal right to say no to the project and approved the it unanimously.
A representative tells Talk of Titusville that construction should start by the end of 2021