Naples Residents Show Support for their Park

Baker Park supportersby Kelly Merritt

When the people speak, elected officials should hear them. Baker Park has earned the moniker ‘The People’s Park’ for a reason. The people of Naples have funded half of it. The people of Naples have made it a reality. And perhaps most importantly, the people of Naples have designed it. Naples citizens have spoken. Will City Council listen?

“We need to proceed with the Baker Park plan and build the park like the people have designed it – the city residents have voted for this plan by coming to the design meetings and with their pocketbooks,” said Mayor John Sorey, who heralds everyone from big donors to countless contributors who have given everything from pavers to $5. “Regardless of the amount, anyone who is willing to give their treasure to Baker Park is equally committed and has the same level of passion for the park as someone who has
donated millions.”

famly supportersIt’s a mystery why someone would oppose any element of an outdoor space conceived by the very people who will use the park most, and which will provide green space, unrivaled play areas for children and encourage wellness. But many Naples citizens remain concerned that some council members will try to alter their park plan. Their fears surround a City Council Workshop on December 15. The design, which has been so carefully thought out by the citizens with the help of a team of architects, is the spirit of
the park.

It’s easy to be passionate about a project that means so much, to so many people. But as the saying goes, removing passion from facts tells the real story. So here they are:

  • 28 public meetings – that’s TWENTY EIGHT public meetings – resulted in the Baker Park design. It was not birthed by one person or one meeting, or even one hundred people, but by hundreds of people who have participated in the design vignettes and donated money specifically for the current Baker Park plan. The design was then brought to life through the gracious lens of respected architect, Matthew Kragh and his talented team of architectural landscape designers. This is the same firm that gave this community the Naples Dog Park and has worked to preserve our area’s precious little architectural history.
  • Last year’s Baker Park Gala generated over $5 million for the current park design plan – that’s MILLIONS after donations for naming rights of individual elements. These funds were not for a blank slate – the very components that Naples public citizens asked to have included in the park design helped generate many of those donations.
  • In fact, out of the $6 million raised thus far, people were inspired by the specifics. Several contributors wrote checks in honor of items like the lake or carousel or reading garden.
  • Baker Park is a public / private partnership. That should mean when the majority of public opinion and all of the private citizens involved reflects a favorable plan, it’s a time to celebrate and move forward, not tinker. People with the best interests of the community rather than their own personal agendas want Baker Park to be a world class park. That will require more than simply planting a giant meadow and nothing else.
  • In a recent City Council meeting one opponent to the Baker Park plan proclaimed, “Olmsted would be horrified with this plan.” But the facts say otherwise. Considered one of the world’s greatest landscape architects, Fredrick Law Olmsted wanted people to be outside. He knew that meant giving them something to do, not just to see, although visually his work is unparalleled. Central Park, Boston’s Emerald Necklace, The Biltmore Estate – all have evolved to include elements not unlike what Baker Park supporters have proposed in their plan: as it is designed now, it will be a park with something for everyone. Because Baker Park is not just for a few. It’s for a community of generations.

The united support of Baker Park is well documented and continues to grow. Dozens have posed for photos in front of the park sign with smaller signs that read, “BUILD OUR PARK”. They are beginning to post those photos on social media and encouraging others to do the same.

Baker Park is the people’s park. It is the result of an outpouring of public and private dedication from the design phase to a lifelong commitment beyond the generation of supporters who founded it.

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