Sinkhole, lease dispute keeping Lake Park closed

Posted at 9:44 PM, Apr 16, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-16 21:44:38-04

A sinkhole, and a battle between two counties, has forced this local park to shut down for nearly five months.  Now, groups who rely on Lake Park in Lutz are fighting back.

On a beautiful Saturday, a lot of people spend time enjoying area parks.  But in Lutz, a group gathered to protest and collect petition signatures because they can't use their favorite park.  Lake Park on Dale Mabry has been closed to the public for months.

"It's a real shame and it should be open," said protester Sarah Jones.

A sinkhole first appeared at Lake Park in October.  Because of concerns the 90-foot hole might be growing, the entire park was closed up December 5th.  Then, the county ordered a study of the park to look for other possible sinkhole activity, keeping the park closed indefinitely.  It's all been frustrating to many groups like Tampa BMX that use the park regularly.

"I have won 27 trophies from BMX'ing, but it is no fun now that we can't BMX here," said rider David Stedje.

"We just want the park open and we want it please done in the most timely fashion we can do it in to get the kids riding back BMX, get them using their bodies and being healthy instead of using their iPads," said parent Mark Beilfuss.

But now it seems the sinkhole isn't the only hold up for reopening the park.  The city of St. Petersburg actually owns the land at Lake Park.  Hillsborough County has been paying the city one dollar a year to use it.  Now, with sinkhole repairs needed to reopen, Hillsborough says St. Pete is asking for $3,000 a month.

"We want the politicians to get moving, get this lease signed to get us back into the park," said protester Debbie Dixon.

The longer the park stays shut down, the more money it's costing everyone.  Tampa BMX is now losing out on several events, including and a state tournament typically drawing 600 riders.

"Everyone's willing to do whatever it takes to open up the park.  If this park didn't mean so much to our local community and our own personal families, we wouldn't even be out here," said Beilfuss.

But when the lease dispute may be resolved, and sinkhole fixed, is up in the air right now.  Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan says he plans to meet with St. Pete mayor Rick Kriseman personally in hopes of resolving the issues.  The city of St. Pete didn't return our request for comment Saturday.