BELLEAIR BEACH -- Buried in the budding plans for a new city hall, still unresolved while proponents await citizen input for the $3 million project, is the prospect of a new tennis court.
Because the new city hall would be located where the existing tennis courts are now, the city has received a $50,000 grant for Bayside Park, immediately adjacent to the east of the present city hall.
Ninety percent of the grant is earmarked to build new tennis courts. Unlike the present tennis facility, which is restricted to Belleair Beach residents only, the new tennis courts will be open to the general public.
That means tennis players from surrounding areas -- Indian Rocks Beach, Bellair Bluffs, Largo, Clearwater -- will be entitled to full use of the facility.
This is because the state grant, one of two the city is receiving, comes from state tax funds and use of the facility cannot be restricted.
Similarly, the grant destined for improvements at the Morgan Street park, on the beach will open the door to the general public.
Although it is not widely known, apparently, the whole of the Gulf beach in the city is open to the general public and is not the private preserve of Belleair Beach residents.
The parking lot at the marina, located at the city line with Sand Key (Clearwater), is designated for the general public.
This came about through the beach renourishment program which used federal funds. When such funds are used, the facility must be open to the general public.
Accordingly, Belleair Shore eschewed renourishment on its beach because residents there want to keep the beach as private as possible and this is accomplished through non-accessibility.
The only places in Belleair Shore to park are at the three beach access lots which are restricted, under a licensing agreement, to Belleair Beach residents.
While plans for the Belleair Beach city hall are crystal clear in the minds of the proponents, much of the public is still in the dark on the plans. Many residents say they have not received promised information on the project.
The plan for the public tennis courts at Bayside Park is not generally known to city residents. The grant that came from the state specifically earmarks $45,000 for the tennis courts.
Another factor in that grant requires that the work be completed by September 30, 2007.
The grant says that the "land owned by (Belleair Beach) which is developed shall be dedicated in perpetuity as an outdoor recreation site by (Belleair Beach) for the use and benefit of the public."
In applying for the grant, the city said that it "is not only committed to its residents to meet their recreational needs but also feels a responsibility to the general community."
Improvements at the Morgan Street park include a picnic shelter, playground and restroom.
All must be open to the general public.
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