In Usual Pattern, Possible Closings Spark Largo Reaction
By Leo Coughlin
LARGO - One of the more popular activities in Largo centers on McGough Park and the Nature Center there.
The outpouring of comments from citizens, literally begging the city to not close the park in the face of severe budget restrictions, attests to this.
Measured against the colossal waste of the Cultural Center it is hard to find reasons to close what, in comparison, is a relatively inexpensive operation by the city. And one that is far more popular than whatever goes on at the Cultural Center.
Typical of the tactics of Joan Byrne, who is director of the Recreation, Parks and Arts Department, a posting was made at McGough to alert citizens to its possible closing.
In recent years, any time any RPA activity is threatened, Byrne & Co. "rally the troops." Once the message goes out, citizens show up in droves at City Commission meetings and deluge City Hall with emails and letters.
So it has been with McGough in recent days.
Posted at McGough was this -
Alert. Proposed closing of McGough Nature Center.The notice then goes on to list 10 programs.
It finishes with advising citizens that they may protest at any commission meeting and lists the names of commission members to contact. (Interestingly, while phone numbers of commission members are all a City Hall number, Commissioner Curtis Holmes lists his personal number. Apparently, he is the only commission member who can be reached directly.)
Contacted to supply details of personnel who staff McGough, Byrne said that only two employees manage the programs at the park. And both of these do not spend a full working week on the job there. One, a recreation specialist, works 32 hours (referred to as an 80 percent FTE - full time employee) and the other, a recreation leader, 24 hours.
"In addition," Byrne added, "we hire temporary seasonal staff or our 10 week summer camp program."
Byrne said that there is one full time maintenance worker who takes care of both McGough and Bonner Parks.
She said, "The current plan calls for the Nature Center to be closed; the parks will both remain open and of course the parks staff will continue at the site. Only the Nature Center staff will be eliminated."
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