As is my custom when writing my Life in Naples article today is the 25th of September, Fall is in the air (somewhere not here) and I can’t wait for that first breath of cool air to arrive. Somehow because this is the November issue you’re reading it’s extremely difficult to write about Thanksgiving when it’s 92 degrees here. However, with that being said I can assure you it is going to be a busy season in our fair City.
For those of you just returning the most exciting place that you need to visit is our new Baker Park. It is absolutely spectacular, and the official opening will be October 29th. This will be the park for generations to come and it has something for everyone. Believe it or not this has been in the works since the late 80’s. Not this exact park, but smaller versions or should I say visions of a park on some of this property. I can vividly remember having some plans drawn for about six acres on the Gordon River, a former Council that I was a member of approved it, we had a Council election and the new Council decided that wasn’t what they wanted so the plans got shelved and ended up covered in dust.
In between and over the years different negotiations were made for the property, and with those negotiations
came lawsuits because of a disagreement with the City and the property owner whom we had bought additional property from. That too was settled, and I wouldn’t exactly say amicably but nonetheless it disappeared. My frustration level stayed constant whenever the subject of a park there came up. Meanwhile the County had done a marvelous job of building the Gordon River Greenway and if you haven’t visited it put it on your list. The sitting City
Council in 2012 had a great opportunity to purchase the balance of that river property which gave us a total of fifteen acres on the Gordon River. We did, and although we all didn’t agree what kind of a park our citizens would want, we set out to get the process started.
The great debate seemed to be whether it should be a passive park or more of an activity one. I give former Mayor John Sorey credit for not backing down and he was a big help to get the ball rolling. I was between Mayoral terms and I was a Council member then. In 2016 I was elected as your Mayor and had a new Council as well. The majority of us on that Council agreed we wanted a passive park and we wanted it started, no ifs, ands, or buts about it. So, we dismantled what was on the drawing board and we went to work.
Council also agreed that we would expend considerable funds to make this park a reality and we asked the public to pitch in which they did by making considerable donations. There were two major donors, Jay and Patty Baker and the Blair Foundation for a combined total of over five million dollars. There are still naming rights to be claimed and still time to take advantage of them. With the completion of Baker Park a whole new adventure awaits you. If you are a cyclist, runner, or just a pleasure walker it’s all there. Pathways to walk, places to sit and enjoy the view, docks for
kayakers, and myriads more. We didn’t forget the kids either, nor did we forget those who love yoga. Pets are allowed on leashes.
We have an entrance way building so catered events can take place there and weddings for sure! The Gordon River Greenway connects directly to Baker Park and there are at least four other access points. The Naples Zoo, The Naples Airport, Golden Gate Parkway, and Central Avenue are a few of them. You can make it a short adventure or turn
it into a day trip. No matter how I try and describe Baker Park I just can’t do it justice, you will have to see it for yourself and you be the judge. I would be remiss if I didn’t thank the many citizens who have commented, e-mailed or written me and for that matter Council for all the hard work, time and effort that has gone into this amazing
project. One final huge kudo goes to our City Staff who coordinated this whole project. I look forward to seeing you at the park!
Next issue: Local politics, new projects, technological advances in the City dealing with traffic, and most importantly progress on our water issues.
Have a Happy Thanksgiving!
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