Crystal Lake Trail Project Drew Public Input, Support at Meeting
Consultants Presented Options Wednesday, Citizens Chose Design Favorites
Last updated 2/8/2023 at 6:04pm
Balancing improved public access to the natural beauty of Crystal Lake Park with parking needs and traffic circulation and the effect upon views and wildlife drew a small crowd to a special meeting Wednesday evening.
The meeting at the Lake Wales Tourist Club in the subject park sought to gain public input.
Consultants presented conceptual drawings representing potential alignments and configurations of the proposed trail which will "close the loop" around the small namesake lake, allowing residents to vote for their preferences.
Among the issues that garnered the most comment was how the trail can be constructed along a portion of North Third Street that features steep slopes to the lake. Votes clearly favored the second of three options, keeping the trail along the lakeside of the street to avoid crossing the street twice.
The effort is being led by Victor Dover of Dover, Kohl & Partners, along with landscape architects Bruce Hall and Jay Hood of Catalyst Design Group. All three participated in the development of the Lake Wales Connected plans, using similar efforts to learn the preferences of the public.
Dover introduced the project with a reverence for the original intent of the landscape plans created by Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. nearly 100 years ago. The park, he said, is clearly intended to be a centerpiece of the city, linking the larger Lake Wailes Park with the downtown area.
"We want to preserve these views while we connect it to the broader trail network," Dover told the group, finding apparent agreement.
The trail project is the second phase of an extensive network of interlinked trails included in the Connected plan, ultimately connecting to other trails linking across Florida. The entire Connected effort is being funded by "tax increments" captured by the Community Redevelopment Agency created by the city decades ago.
The tentative design features an asphalt-surfaced trail, comfortable for runners, edged with concrete curbs to protect it from the mowers that serve the park "so the edges won't break down," Hood said. The new trail will also be connected to existing "dead-end" sidewalks within the park and neighborhood.
New streetlights and landscaping will further beautify the park, with trees being added as specified in the original park plans.
Among the ideas discussed were reducing the short stretch of North Third Street to one-way traffic, as was recently done on Park Avenue, to provide room for the trail. Other options included narrowing both the roadway and the trail to squeeze them in, or carrying the trail across to the west side of the street using two crossings, a design that drew no support.
The study is ongoing, and a further presentation may be made before the project is approved by the CRA for engineering design.