Orange County is looking to Summerlake residents for design ideas for a new neighborhood park.
At a community meeting Thursday, Aug. 15, at Windermere High School, Summerlake residents were ready to contribute design ideas to what soon will be a new park in their neighborhood.
Summerlake Park will be located at the intersection of Porter Road and Wood Sage Drive and will be built in conjunction with a new elementary school. Both are planned for a 2021 opening date.
More than 30 Summerlake residents made it out to the new Windermere High School Performing Arts Center to submit their preferences at the meeting led by Orange County Parks and Recreation staff members Matt Suedmeyer, manager, and Greg Wenrick, a landscape architect.
Residents expressed a desire for several different amenities, from a running path and shade trees to open space and a basketball court and a picnic pavilion.
Mandy Pike is a mother whose family moved to Summerlake four years ago. She has three children under the age of 8.
“I love Independence’s park, and we go there often, so I would like something like that,” Pike said.
She said one feature she would definitely like to see is a basketball court.
“In our neighborhood, you cannot have a basketball hoop in front of your home,” Pike said. “It’s just part of our HOA, and so it (would be) nice to have extra space for the kids to play basketball. I just want a place where the community can gather.”
Other residents expressed concerns about adding a basketball court, believing the court could attract people from outside the neighborhood. Several suggested a couple of half courts instead.
About $1.2 million is set aside for the park with $200,000 going toward design and $1 million for construction. The neighborhood park will be a sunrise/sunset neighborhood park only open during daylight hours, according to Suedmeyer. He said the county will not be building bathrooms or on-site parking and it will not be staffed.
This is partially due to the lack of staff and partially because bathrooms usually cost around $500,000 to build, which is easily half of the entire budget, he said. Summerlake already has three parks — one of which is a dog park — in the neighborhood through the HOA, which have play areas for younger children and open, grassy spaces.
Summerlake HOA president Rob Taylor said he was looking forward to working with Orange County on another park for the community. Taylor has lived in the area for almost six years and said he was excited for the county to build the park and would like to see another play area for children.
“For me personally, I have a 2-and-a-half-year-old, so I think (I would like) a toddler play area and then maybe something he can grow into and play in the years to come,” Taylor said.
Summerlake HOA Vice President Sandy Hansen said he believes residents would enjoy a few benches facing Walt Disney World to watch the nightly fireworks. This was an idea a few residents voiced during the meeting, expressing a desire for some park benches or a grassy knoll to sit on at night.
“Probably every night you’ll find half a dozen or more people out there standing, watching the fireworks.”
While some people wanted to explore amenities the neighborhood did not already have, Hansen said the neighborhood was big enough that he could see people wanting another dog park or something else that already is around since there are approximately 1,445 units in Summerlake.
“That’s why there’s more than one playground in the community right now,” Hansen said.
For residents who were not able to attend the meeting, there is a survey online available at surveymonkey.com/r/SummerlakePark. So far, Suedmeyer said the Parks and Recreation Department has already received more than 320 completed surveys.
“Please know that this is just the very beginning of the process and at the end of the day we’ll have a park built that the majority of you will be very, very happy with,” Suedmeyer said at the meeting.
The next community meeting regarding Summerlake Park will be held at 6 p.m. Oct. 29 at Windermere High School.