Opposition sinks sponge docks upgrades

City plans on sprucing up docks area in other ways

The Tarpon Springs sponge docks that everybody knows were at risk, said Mary Coburn.
Coburn was raised in Tarpon Springs and has a deep fondness for the docks that attract people from all over the world.
Two and a half years ago, the city commissioned architect and Tarpon Springs native Ed Hoffman to come up with a design to overhaul and enhance the sponge docks.
Hoffman wanted to add an over-the-road entryway sign, a small amphitheater and brick walkways.  
"People say it looks like Disney. Well, I don't think it's the case at all.  I think it's a misconception that it's going to look modern," Hoffman said. 
But opposition to changes at the docks grew in part because of design plans to build a wooden walkway that would move the sponge boats out further into the channel of the Anclote River,  a potential issue that could affect navigation in this federal channel. 
"It's not just about beautification. It's about function for the sponge divers. If you don't have the sponge divers here, you don't have the sponge docks anymore. This dock was built specifically for them," Coburn said.
City commissioners voted unanimously to scrap any design plans currently in the works.
"Now people have drawn lines. They're on one side or the other,  which is disappointing," Hoffman said.
But for those who aren't disappointed with the city's decision, they feel a sense of accomplishment.
"It was a really important issue, and we feel very happy that we were successful," Coburn said.
The city now has plans for a streetscape project that includes lighting upgrades and improvements to its benches and flower pots as well as additional sprucing up of the entire sponge dock area. 
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