A Park for Naples’s Future

park in naplesExcitement for the new Gordon River Park has reached a fevered pitch in Naples, as Southwest Florida prepares for the park gala, Prelude to a Park on March 15, 2014. It will take place right in the very spot where the park will be, which adds to the enthusiasm.

The latest plan in the park process is dubbed “Plan E” and it reflects several new updates from the last plan unveiled by Kragh and the park gala committee.

“There are new pavilion structures, one on the side of the hill and on the peninsula while everything else was mostly moving things around different locations,” said Kragh. “We added a shaded lawn which was a big part of the concept – instead of having one large open lawn, we now have one large open lawn and one heavily shaded lawn.”

Kragh also grew the park hill from 30 feet to 40 feet. When he and Mayor John Sorey and park officials examined the view of the river from the park at 30 feet, they realized they needed to go higher.

gala event“Up at that height we really couldn’t see the river that well, but when we rose up to 40 feet the view was perfect,” said Kragh.

Plan E is everything park organizers could want in a park and the plan itself is a colorful inspiration of what’s to come. Kragh’s office created a 3D model of the park which has taken thousands of man hours to complete.

The response to the park project has been overwhelming from all age groups. Kragh and Mayor Sorey have been making stops to glean interest in the park from the people who will enjoy it most — the area’s children.

“St Ann’s Catholic School created a class forum for us so we were able to present to all of the kids in the school. All their little hands were raised offering $15 and $20 – all the kids were really getting excited about it,” said Kragh. “And we have appointments with other schools coming up.” Educators who would like to schedule a park presentation should visit www.NaplesGordonRiverPark.com.

The reality is it will probably take a year to start pushing dirt out there, however the engineering process and permitting will begin right after the gala. If all of the funds needed are raised it could take as little as two years to construct, including permitting and construction.

People will be welcome to patronize the park with their four legged friends on a leash. The new park is directly across the street from the Naples Dog Park, which is the county’s most popular canine gathering spot. Kragh also designed the dog park for the City of Naples which is one reason supporters are so excited about the new park for people. And the park is another step towards the Blue Zone philosophy.

“The Blue Zone references areas of the world where longevity and quality of life have a high correlation, where people are still very actively physically and mentally and it is driven by lifestyle in these parts of the world,” said Mayor Sorey. “There is no question that longevity has to do with the development of healthy lifestyle opportunities – a key component of that is exercise and the park will provide the citizens of the city and county with many opportunities to be active.”


This park is a public private partnership between the city and everyone who will love and use this park for generations to come.

“I did just put together the probable cost which is part of my task and it is down to every speck of sand and sod,” said Kragh. “If this was built all in one phase it is every bit of $10 million and with contingency and construction fees it could rise to as high as $15 million.”

The website, www.ParkGala.com is live and people can go online to contribute to the park in a variety of ways.

“This is a legacy park and it needs to be built to Naples standards and while that may seem like a big number to people it will be a great asset and provide multiple returns,” said Mayor Sorey. “Raising private money to go with the public money will make that happen and it will be phased in as we can raise the money.”

Mayor Sorey says that’s the beauty of the way the park has been designed by Kragh. Delores Sorey and her team of park organizers know the park will be successful because it will bring so much joy to the community.

“When you have a good product to sell it is going to sell and we have an excellent product to sell,” said Mrs. Sorey. “I have had people call me and say, ‘I heard about the park and I want to give you $5,000 because it is fabulous for Naples and I want to be a part of it,” said Mrs. Sorey. “And other people are giving us $100 brick by brick so they can say this is my park and I invested in it.”

Others have taken a major interest in the park and are stepping up in big ways. William Boyajian of Port Royal Jewelers is one of the parks biggest supporters. He designed a custom pendant which will be up for sale at the gala to benefit the park.

“As long as I have lived here I have heard about this project and finally it’s really going to happen,” said Boyajian. “Because I grew up in Naples I feel it’s an extreme honor to finally give back to our city – it is greening up the quality of life.”

Boyajian is encouraging his fellow community leaders to become conscious and caring benefactors to complete the park.

“My dream is that I can inspire benefactors with my pendant and donation all of which will go to help raise money and awareness of the new park project,” Boyajian said. “I love the fact that the park will be on the water and it will be open to everyone and I really believe very strongly in conservation – this
new park is a chance to bring our community together to create a new green space.” Boyajian said the one of a kind pendant he designed and created
will be worn close to the heart which is important, because when the owner of that pendant wears ‘The Tree of Promise’ it will be a reminder that they were one of the first to sow a seed to make the park a reality.
“ ‘The Tree of Promise’ has a meaning behind it, right now because the new park doesn’t have beautiful trees yet, but I see it giving a true meaning of faith to the idea of a beautiful future full of flowering trees that will grow in this new park,” he said. “The conservation and uses that are made of our land and our waters are extremely important at this time in our history – and while legislature can create a better future for the next generation, more people need
to get involved and understand the true value of protecting green spaces like parks and wetlands for our children and the future of our wildlife.”

For more information on the pendant and Port Royal Jewelers, visit www.portroyaljewelers.com. Boyajian’s showroom is also open at 623 Fifth Avenue South from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Several sponsors have stepped up to support the park. Mrs. Sorey is deeply moved by what the sponsors have done thus far. “Words cannot express our appreciation for all they are doing to develop this wonderful park and I can imagine 100 years from now people will be marveling at how it has become a true Legacy Park,” she said. “This will always be their park because they have given so much of themselves and their talents to make it a reality.” Sponsors include MHK Architecture & Planning – Matthew H. Kragh, AIA, NCARB, Park Designer

  • City Of Naples
  • FineMark National Bank & Trust
  • Port Royal Jewelers — William Boyajian
  • The Law Office of Sam J. Saad, III, PA
  • Willow Street Advisors, LLC
  • Grace Lakes Florist
  • Life in Naples Magazine
  • Naples Print Source
  • Taylor Rental, Inc.
  • The Marino Group, Inc.
  • Wynn’s Market & Catering

Family day – the day after the gala is also moving forward, the energy building to show to park to the young ones who will be using it. On March 16 families can experience different musical acts and performances from 1-4 p.m., with other activities. Food and beverage will also be available for purchase.
The gala event is slated for March 15 at the Gordon River Park, while family day is scheduled for the next day on March 16, 2014. For more information about park events or to make a donation, call 239.263.2673 or visit www.NaplesGordonRiverPark.com.

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