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Southwest Orange Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017 2 years ago

Residents distressed by Windermere Recreation Center improvements

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Residents fear an increase in Windermere recreation center visitors would have detrimental effects on the environment.
by: Gabby Baquero News Editor

WINDERMERE – Homeowners who reside on Lake Crescent near the Windermere Recreation Center are shocked by the town’s overall plans for the park.

With more improvements in progress to make sure the park is used, residents say this is not what they had in mind when they donated what used to be known as the Butler Bay Recreation Area to the town of Windermere and gave it $25,000 to make minor improvements to the park.

With concerns over the loss of vegetation and disturbance to the local wildlife, many believe the town’s improvements are doing harm. They added that they were unaware of all the renovations and additional structures being added to the park, despite the fact that the town advertised the improvements in the paper and the town’s website and social media sites.

“From what I understand, there were three HOAs that had neglected the park for quite some time,” Windermere Town Manager Robert Smith said. “They weren’t taking care of the community center or the tennis courts in the park, so it was a pretty unused park for quite some time. And the HOA decided to go ahead and donate it to the town of Windermere, which makes it a public park.”

The town has since invested $150,000 to $200,000 on the park’s infrastructure improvements, which includes the resurfacing and renovation of the tennis courts, fences, parking lot, the addition of security cameras, repairs to the bridge that connects the island to the mainland, the construction of a pavilion in place of the old community center and the addition of a sand volleyball court.

All that’s left is the addition of a playground, which will be located near the tennis courts, and a kayak launch, which will be attached to the fishing pier.

The idea behind the improvements is to attract more people to the park, but some residents believe more people might disturb the pristine condition of the environment and decrease lake quality.

“Some of the things they’re planning on doing, they should refrain from doing,” resident Mark Griffin said. “It’s a beautiful park the way it is. You don’t really need a dock for people to get in a kayak. So it’s a bit puzzling they felt compelled to spend all that money to build additional structures, particularly if it’s encroaching on that sanctuary.”

Griffin emphasized that many of his neighbors and other homeowners who were part of the HOA that donated the park to the town were surprised when they learned of the town’s intentions.

“It’s just a shame — we should have been paying attention,” Griffin said. “Every neighbor in our area went to the meeting with the town manager the night before with concerns and questions, and a number of them wanted to pursue this further and get an attorney, but I don’t know what we’re going to do. We’re just disappointed.” – Mark Griffin, Windermere resident

“According to the people I talked to, there was never any approval to open it up to the world, and they never thought that would happen, but of course they didn’t stipulate that properly within their documentation,” Griffin said.

“No. 1, it was never a private lake,” Smith said. “They have no ownership of that lake. No. 2, the minute they donated the park to the town of Windermere, which is a public entity, it becomes a public park.”

Another grievance involved the location chosen for the sand volleyball court. Griffin said the town placed the court where all the sandhill cranes were, and now the cranes have not been back. In addition, the land surrounding the court has become muddy.

Smith said the town was not aware the location was once a primary hangout spot for the sandhill cranes. The town will be putting up hedges to block the view of the volleyball court for a nearby homeowner.

“It’s just a shame — we should have been paying attention,” Griffin said. “Every neighbor in our area went to the meeting with the town manager the night before with concerns and questions, and a number of them wanted to pursue this further and get an attorney, but I don’t know what we’re going to do. We’re just disappointed.”

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Contact Gabby Baquero at [email protected]

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