Pickleball crowd disappointed by decision to build courts at Ralph Carter Park instead of at Holland Park.
Although, as Jack Howell pointed out, it’s free to splash in the ocean, the city of Palm Coast voted 3-2 to move forward with a $2 million plan to build splash pads at Holland Park. Fellow City Council member Nick Klufas argued for the splash pads because they are one of the few amenities in the city directed to parents with small children.
Several residents spoke at the April 2 meeting about a different amenity that was cut from the $5.6 million phase 2 of the Holland Park plan: dedicated pickleball courts. Supporters argued that pickleball is a fast-growing sport that can attract tourists and that the city should build them at Holland Park, near where many players live. The City Council’s vote included six courts at Ralph Carter Park instead, for $600,000.
Councilman Eddie Branquinho began the discussion by criticizing the city staff’s “astronomical” projected costs for bocce court shade coverings and pickleball courts.
“It’s a lot of money, and I don’t think we should go forward,” he said, especially considering the city is struggling to find money to pay for improvements to the Public Works facility.
Howell began his comments by saying, “I have a major issue with the splash park.” In his career, he supervised Ocean Rescue in Jacksonville, and his staff also dealt with a splash park there.
“It was a nightmare,” he said. The splash park got muddy, and kids had bathroom accidents that caused the pool to be shut down for three hours at a time. Considering so many families have pools at their homes, and considering the ocean is free, “I don’t think this is needed.”
“If I’m the Grinch, I’m the Grinch,” he added. “I’m thinking to myself, ‘I remember running through the sprinkler system. That was a big deal.’”
Klufas said Howell had good points, but regarding the ocean, he countered: “You need those areas that aren’t as dangerous. An ocean can take away that little one very quickly.”
“You’re right about that,” Howell said, with a pause. Then he said, “But it’s called parenting. … Take them down to the ocean and watch them.”
The crowd applauded Howell's parenting comment until Mayor Milissa Holland smacked the gavel to quiet them.
Seven residents commented on the agenda item. One E-section resident said 20-30 people play pickleball at a time at Belle Terre Park, and courts at Ralph Carter would be a welcome addition to the southern part of the city. One resident said the city should gather data on who uses what before spending so much money on amenities. Another said pickleball courts will be used all year and all times of the day, whereas a splash park won’t.
Holland, Councilman Bob Cuff and Klufas voted for the contract. Branquinho and Howell voted against.