CLEARWATER -Jack Alvord came to the October 7 Clearwater City Council meeting to carry on his fight for an environmental park on the site of a former mobile home park in his Bayview neighborhood. He left on a stretcher, fighting for his life after being resuscitated by Clearwater paramedics from a condition of cardiac arrest.
Alvord has been battling on behalf of the park for 15 years. As President of the Historic Bayview Association, he successfully fought attempts to rezone the property for commercial use and construct an office tower. He also successfully fought for a grant from the Florida Communities Trust that allowed the land's purchase by the City of Clearwater, and its conversion into an environmental park. The City acquired the land in 2001, but has yet to turn it into a park.
Alvord appeared at the October 7 meeting to address the City Council on two issues: Clearwater's delay in formulating a park design and management plan, and the naming of the park by the City Council.
During his first presentation, Alvord complained that it has taken two years for the City to develop an engineering park plan, and it's still not complete. The result, Alvord said, is that applications for additional grants that could help fund the environmental park's development cannot be submitted. Alvord also criticized the City's recent use of fertilizers, pesticides and lawn grass on parkland that should have been xeriscaped with native plants. Kevin Dunbar, the City's Director of Parks and Recreation, responded that the State had granted a 6-month extension for the development of a park management plan, and that it would be complete in March 2005, but offered no comment on the use of the allegedly inappropriate materials.
Next was the issue of naming the park. Alvord was the first to speak, and produced copies of two City-authored documents that referred to the future park as the Historic Bayview Environmental Park; one of those documents was the original grant application. Referring to the document titles, Alvord said, "You people named it; I didn't. You people wrote the paperwork; I didn't. You people agreed with the State of Florida so you could get the $1.7 million grant."
At that point, Alvord said, "I'm feeling faint", and collapsed at the podium. Paramedics arrived about 3 minutes later, and began evaluating his condition. During the evaluation, Alvord suffered cardiac arrest; he was resuscitated by the paramedics using a defibrillator, and was transported to Morton Plant Hospital. When the meeting later resumed, the Council decided to postpone their naming decision to a future date.
Speaking from his hospital bed four days later, Alvord said, "I'm a lucky man just to be alive." He praised the paramedics who saved his life, and the care he's received at Morton Plant. He also finished what he would have told the Council last Thursday night about naming he park.
Alvord explained that "Historic Bayview Environmental Park" is more than just a name, it is a description of the park's purpose; an environmental park, he said, is more educational than passive. The area has a rich history, and the combination of the nearby water treatment plant, containment of storm water runoff from the Bayside Bridge, and lush native plant life on the parkland provides a unique opportunity to demonstrate sound environmental management techniques. He added that the City's grant application promised an environmental park as a condition of funding, and that the proper naming of the park will communicate its purpose to current and future City officials, discouraging any future change in land use.
Ever the salesman, Alvord said, "I've got people in the hospital writing letters to the Council, they're so mad." But don't expect to see him at the podium any time soon; Alvord recognizes that the intensity of his involvement with the park contributed to his heart attack, and at this moment he's more concerned about preserving his own life than arguing with the Council about park issues.
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