Pricey playground stirs debate in Clearwater Beach - FOX 13 News

Pricey playground stirs debate in Clearwater Beach

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CLEARWATER BEACH (FOX 13) -

The city of Clearwater is getting a surprising "pushback" to a big improvement on Clearwater Beach. 

A group of elected officials is ready to approve $430,000 for a "sand castle" addition to the existing playground at the foot of Pier 60. 

The addition features several built in features, such as slides, ladders and walkways. 

However, it would be built at a time when the city is removing other equipment "...from different playgrounds in the city because they became unsafe, and we didn't have the money to replace them," Mayor George Cretekos told FOX 13. 

Cretekos added that the expenditure will be discussed at a future city council meeting and the "council may even decide to postpone doing anything right now."

The Clearwater Beach Chamber of Commerce used to favor the project. But in a letter to the mayor and city council this week, the Chamber said "...at this time we are not able to offer our support to this project." 

The letter lists several reasons, including reductions in services at other city parks, a "more than adequate mix of offerings" at Pier 60 already, and safety and security concerns. 

"Pier 60 is already a favorite hangout for local youth and also homeless individuals late at night," the letter said. "The proposed design offers seclusion and unintended opportunity for socially unacceptable behavior."

The Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce took a neutral position after polling its membership. 

"On the mainland the vote was yes, go ahead with the project. On the beach it was a no," said Chamber President Bob Clifford. 

He noted the pressure recent changes of opinions will put on the city council. 

"If everybody's not really excited about this, do we really want to go out and spend $430,000?" Clifford asked.

Another objection appears to be unfounded, at least to parents.

Some leaders question why one of the world's most popular beaches even needs a playground to begin with. 

"I like the playground better than the beach. I think little kids like it better," said Holly Moody, as her two children used the existing playground.

"It gives them something to do than just stay in the sand and get sand in their eyes," she said. 

Moody added a safety note:  "All that water and stuff, you've got little kids, they can just run out to the water and in like one second they're gone." 

Feven Abraham said her 2-and-a-half year old likes playing on structures. 

"Kids like playing together," she added.

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