Resolution adding property to the park wins unanimous approval
With a unanimous vote this week, the Sarasota City Commission approved a resolution that will add an 18-foot strip on the far west side of the former Lemon Avenue to Pineapple Park.
That should ensure ongoing protection of the mosaic mermaid fountain that is the park’s signature feature, supporters say.
Additionally, city Parks and Recreation Director Jerry Fogle “is working diligently” to bring together the appropriate experts to rehabilitate the iconic foundation, City Manager Tom Barwin told the board during its Nov. 7 meeting.
Sarasota resident Jude Levy was among those who were delighted by the city’s actions. She and two other speakers during the Nov. 7 session — Barbara Campo and Nathan Wilson — had urged the board to adopt the resolution drafted by City Attorney Robert Fournier.
Both Levy and Campo are members of the Save Our Sarasota organization, whose mission is to preserve the city’s quality of life.
“We really fought to save the park and the fountain,” Levy said in a Nov. 10 telephone interview with The Sarasota News Leader, referring to “hundreds and hundreds of people” who signed a petition to that effect.
As Fournier explained to the commissioners this week, the 1,755-square-foot parcel at the heart of the resolution was part of Lemon Avenue before that street was realigned under the aegis of the Downtown Master Plan 2020. Lemon Avenue formerly was located within a 60-foot-wide strip of land to the east of Pineapple Park. The master plan called for the relocation of a portion of the street so the intersection of Lemon Avenue and Pineapple Avenue on the east side of Pineapple would line up with the intersection of McAnsh Square and Pineapple Avenue on the west side of Pineapple Avenue, the resolution notes.
In February, Fournier reminded the board members, they approved the sale of property comprising the eastern 30 feet of that 60-foot-wide strip. Their vote on Nov. 7 would add 18 of the remaining feet to the park. The other 12 feet would become a pedestrian walkway.
As the situation stood, Fournier pointed out, the mermaid fountain was outside the actual borders of the park. Even though the commission had not indicated intent to sell the segment of former right of way that remained following the February sale, he said, the public wanted to make sure the fountain was protected.
Therefore, by approving the resolution, he continued, the fountain would be fully located within the park. Then, the only way the fountain might be at risk in the future, he said, would be if the board chose to vacate the park.
During the public hearing, Levy pointed out that with the realignment of Lemon Avenue in 2003, the park lost about one-third of its land. More than two decades ago, when artist Nancy Goodheart Matthews created the fountain, Levy noted, the park “was a triangle-shaped oasis in the middle of downtown.” Along with the artwork, the park had nine wooden benches and canopy trees, she said.
“You have strong citizen support for saving the mermaid fountain,” Levy added.
The adoption of the resolution Fournier had drawn up was necessary, Campo testified, “because, technically, the right of way runs through the mermaid fountain.” City maps do need to be updated, she added.
Next year will mark the 25th anniversary of the creation of the park, Campo pointed out.
Furthermore, the fountain is catalogued in the Smithsonian Institution’s art inventory, Campo told the board, “and that is quite a distinction.” Citizens want to see the city honor “its exceptional art history,” she added.
Wilson, who was speaking on behalf of the Arlington Park Neighborhood Association, talked of the fact that, with all the development underway downtown, “parks and green space are becoming more important.”
Commissioner Susan Chapman made the motion to approve the resolution; Commissioner Liz Alpert seconded it.
“I was glad it was 5-0,” Levy told the News Leader, referring to the Nov. 7 vote.
As she had mentioned during the meeting, she noted in the telephone interview that the city has $27,500 set aside for the rehabilitation of the fountain. Levy added that Matthews — the artist — has agreed to work with another artist, as well as a masonry expert, that city staff has told her will handle the project.
“I just don’t think that we can afford to lose any more of our Sarasota funkiness,” she continued as she talked about the passion behind the effort to save the fountain.
She also remains hopeful that with Fogle having been named the Parks and Recreation Department director earlier this year, city staff will “reconfigure what’s left of Pineapple Park with some trees and benches.”
Levy added, “Once [the park] gets all dolled-up, we’ll have a little party.”