TAMPA - Tampa is proud of the new Curtis Hixon Park, the Tampa Museum of Art. and the Glazer Children's museum all recently added to the downtown riverfront. But that may be only half the story.
Mayor Bob Buckhorn has big plans for the west side of the river at a park unfamiliar to most of us.
Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park is quiet on a Monday morning. The benches are empty and the playground equipment still. A young couple hits a tennis ball back and forth while a University of Tampa student studies under a shade tree.
The Mayor wants more activity than this on such a prime piece of waterfront real estate.
"I really want to energize it. I want water features down there. I want to give people a reason to come down there. I want shows in the park," enthused Buckhorn.
The Mayor wants the Hillsborough River to be the central focal point of the City, not just the western boundary and having an attractive destination directly across the water from the Straz Performing Arts Center, he believes, will help achieve that.
Buckhorn envisions a first-rate rowing facility, a sidewalk that doesn't end after a few hundred yards, maybe even arts programs sponsored through the Straz Center.
What he'd like to get rid of are the huge elevated mounds of earth that must have seemed like a good idea in 1977, but block the view of the river from most of the park.
"I don't know what they are. There may be bodies under there for all I know, but that really is an obstacle for opening up that river," said Buckhorn.
Not everyone is clamoring for a makeover. The old concrete racquetball courts are used almost daily by nearby Tampa Preparatory School for P.E. classes.
"It's not fancy, but the kids love it. We have our parking lot here and get to play as much racquetball as we can every year. I hope they keep some kind of racquetball courts inside the park if at all possible," said Coach Bruno Quattrone.
Many neighbors enjoy the park as it is. The Mayor says he'll take that into account, but wants to make Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park more of a destination. That could include adding a restaurant.
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