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New playground, splash pad planned for Sarasota's Bayfront Park

If the city approves the proposal and designs, the construction of the new park amenities will commence around early summer.

SARASOTA, Fla. — A new playground and splash pad could soon be coming to Sarasota's Bayfront Park. The city recently shared the proposed updated design at a community meeting. 

City of Sarasota leaders want to replace the current and dilapidated playground which has become hazardous. They think this revamp will save money in the long run.

The city has selected Jon F. Swift Construction to reimagine both with a goal of improving and expanding ADA accessibility, inclusivity and safety. The city says the project will also utilize sustainable and lasting materials more fitting for a coastal environment, creating a splash pad that can accommodate more year-round use, while connecting it with the playground to encourage the use of both fun amenities.

"We are working on going down little slides but I just like to get her out so she can people watch and see a little bit of the world," said Daniel Herriges of Sarasota. 

Herriges, a father of two, works from home and often has a flexible morning schedule. During that time, he brings his nearly two-year-old daughter on what he calls little excursion trips around the city including to the Bayfront Park. Herriges said the park was one of their favorite places to go, but the more than 20-year-old park has started falling apart 

"I have certainly noticed that the fountain over there has been off for a long time and kind of out of use. The playground, I can see a lot of paint is peeled away and it's due for a little bit of an upgrade," he said.

Not far from where he was standing were three orange cones strategically placed over depressed portions on the playground padding, denoting possible soil or rubber filling shift underneath the deteriorating structure. It's just an example of some of the wear and tear the park is dealing with.

"We come in here practically every year, making repairs and it's gotten to the point where it's not cost-effective anymore," said John Kretzer, Operations Manager, City of Sarasota Parks and Recreation. 

City leaders said the new park would be a world-class, interactive playground and splash pad. The theme will center around a shipwreck and highlight some of the elements of the city's location by the water.

Crews will remove the existing infrastructure, change the landscape elevations to bring the current fountain area up to the same level as the playground. The new designs also include re-imagined fencing and sidewalks which would be more accessible to wheelchair users or anyone with a disability.

"New playground equipment bring things in that are pretty much updated and a lot easier to maintain than what we have currently," Kretzer said.

The city also plans to have the fountains at the new splash pad open year-round.

"Excited to see whatever changes that they make. This is such a wonderful location and it's great to have a family-friendly park right in the heart of downtown," Herriges said.

If the city approves the proposal and designs, construction of the new park amenities will commence around early summer. Rebuilding the park could take up to 8 months and it could be ready for use by the end of 2022 or early 2023.