Every week the reality of welcoming Neapolitans to Baker Park gets closer to fruition. Of the many milestones achieved in recent months, Friends of Baker Park, Inc. is now a 501(c)(3) not for profit organization with a tax deductible status from the State of Florida. The web site, www.FriendsOfBakerPark.com is live and serves as the communications centerpiece where people can join Friends of Baker Park, volunteer, make tax deductible donations and make reservations for the Gala.
The generous donors for whom Baker Park is named served as a springboard that catapulted the park project forward. They are Patty and Jay
Baker, who have also graciously agreed to be the Honorary Chairs of this year’s “One Leaf at a Time – Prelude to a Park Two Gala for Baker Park” taking place on the park grounds Saturday, March 7. The Bakers shared their joy of helping the park become real for generations in a special video for last year’s Gala celebration.
“This is a wonderful thing for the community and for the kids in the community so we are just very excited that the Mayor asked us – he brought us here and showed us the project and we went back to his office and said ‘yes, absolutely’ we want to do this,” says Mr. Baker. “We look forward to using the park right along with you.”
Mrs. Baker shares her husband’s enthusiasm for the park, especially the connection with Gordon River and activities like rowing, boating and kayaking.
“This has been due for a long time and it is a wonderful place for kids to come here, and to have a carousel,” she says. “We are so excited to have this naming opportunity and there are many other naming opportunities, so you can help create this park too.”
In perhaps the most exciting news of recent months, the engineering results have revealed no major obstacles. Mayor John Sorey says while the park is a challenging construction project due to the fill material, it’s nothing unachievable.
“On December 15 City Council meeting CDM Smith presented their 30 percent design criteria and we’re looking forward to proceeding to the 60 percent design status,” he says.
All that remains to bring Baker Park to its citizens is the balance of the original budget. “We have a budget of $15 million and within that, the City has contributed $7.5 million plus the land, and that excludes the bridge,” says Mayor Sorey. “We have raised privately almost $6 million but we still need to raise $1.5 million – and if we raise more than that it will just make it a better park.”
Baker Park is full of environmentally friendly endeavors, but Mayor Sorey heralds the Conservancy of Southwest Florida for their assistance and is enthusiastic about one particular ecofriendly aspect of the park project.
“The Conservancy has been great to work with and one of the exciting concepts is building the bridge from above, which will have the equipment to drive the pilings on the bridge deck versus into the mangroves,” he says. “I’m also excited about working out with the Conservancy the right of way for the bridge close to North Road so Park patrons can go from Baker Park all the way to Golden Gate Parkway.”
Friends of Baker Park President and Gala Chair Delores Sorey expects formal Gala invitations to hit mailboxes around the 2nd week in January.
“At the Gala, we will be presenting a few special surprises that will premier things to come and of course we’ll have fireworks again,” says Mrs. Sorey. “This year we will have only four auction items which we will announce later on, as well as park items available for purchase which will include a plaque on or near each item with the purchaser’s name displayed.”
Councilman Bill Barnett is slated to be the Gala Auctioneer again this year with music by Joe Marino and All the Kings Men.
“This unique event will raise funds to provide essential amenities to complete the Baker Park on the park site, under the stars and a full moon which is a very unusual setting,” says Mrs. Sorey. “The evening will feature an elegant dining experience, entertainment and an update on the progress of our legacy park.”
“We are so grateful for all the support we have received and I am still talking to several major donors,” says Mayor Sorey. “Hopefully we will have the final 100 percent design approved in 2015, start building in 2016 and open in 2017.”
Tickets are $350 per person ($200 tax deductible), $500 per patron level ($350 tax
deductible), tables of 10 – $5,000 ($3,500 tax deductible). Sponsors include premier
sponsor The Ronto Group, design sponsor MHK Architecture & Planning including
Park Designer Matthew H. Kragh, FineMark National Bank & Trust, Port Royal
Jewelers, Beacon Real Estate Partners, Law Offices of Sam J. Saad, III, PA, Coleman,
Yovanovich & Koester, P.A., Premier Property Mngt., Mr. and Mrs. Jack Hurst, media
sponsors Life in Naples Magazine and the Naples Daily News, Grace Lakes Florist,
Naples Print Source, Taylor Rental, Inc., Lutgert Insurance and Wynn’s Market and
The Friends of Baker Park Board of Directors includes President Delores Sorey, Vice
President / Nominating Chair Jim Rideoutte, 2nd Vice President / Fundraising Chair
Amy Saad, Secretary Karin M. Holmes, Treasurer Ray Marasco, Marketing / PR
chair Ursula M. Pfahl Ph.D., Matthew Kragh and our own Life in Naples Publisher
For information or an invitation to The Gala, contact Baker Park Gala Chair
Delores Sorey at email@example.com or 239.263.2673. For general Baker Park
information, visit www.friendsofbakerpark.com.