ABOUT

PRESERVE PAYNE PARK

Payne Park was donated by Calvin N. and Martha E. Payne to the City of Sarasota in 1925 with the deed stipulating that the land be used for “park, playground or kindred use and for no other use or purpose”. Payne Park has been described as the finest gift the City has ever received.

Payne Park has evolved over the years, and the City invested an estimated $20 million plus of tax-payer dollars to rehabilitate and create the beautiful park that exists today. Payne Park is a refuge of beautiful green space in a congested urban environment.  It is home to a well-maintained public tennis center of 12 clay courts, a skateboard facility, a café, wildlife filled ponds, state-of-the-art playground and meandering walking trails.  Payne Park is filled with the sounds of joyful children and natural orchestral music of birds entertaining families with children, neighbors, park visitors and tennis enthusiasts from around Sarasota County and the world.

Payne Park was donated by Calvin N. and Martha E. Payne to the City of Sarasota in 1925 with the deed stipulating that the land be used for “park, playground or kindred use and for no other use or purpose”. Payne Park has been described as the finest gift the City has ever received.

Payne Park has evolved over the years, and the City invested an estimated $20 million plus of tax-payer dollars to rehabilitate and create the beautiful park that exists today. Payne Park is a refuge of beautiful green space in a congested urban environment.  It is home to a well-maintained public tennis center of 12 clay courts, a skateboard facility, a café, wildlife filled ponds, state-of-the-art playground and meandering walking trails.  Payne Park is filled with the sounds of joyful children and natural orchestral music of birds entertaining families with children, neighbors, park visitors and tennis enthusiasts from around Sarasota County and the world.

WHAT'S HAPPENING?

In February 2019, the Sarasota Orchestra propositioned the Sarasota City Commissioners to build a massive 2,500 -seat building with parking in Payne Park covering 7 acres of park land. The current Orchestra proposal plans to relocate the tennis courts and eliminate a small lake, 2 ponds, shade trees, wildlife ecosystem and taking open space the size of 5 football fields.

We believe that taking valuable community green space from Payne Park will cause irreparable harm to the wildlife, environment, urban wildlife ecosystem, neighboring residents, and patrons of the park.

We urge the City to be an upstanding steward of our community green space, and keep to their promise to administer Payne Park solely for the purposes specified in the deed — a PARK… meaning, open space, nature, trails, playgrounds, and outdoor recreational activities connecting citizens to nature.

Why is paving over Payne Park a bad idea?

  1. DONORS’ WISHES: Calvin and Martha Payne donated Payne Park with the deed restriction expressly stating: “to be used for park, playground and kindred uses, and for no other use or purpose.” Violating the intentions of this valuable community charitable gift to the citizens of Sarasota will erode public trust in our elected officials and discourage future charitable gifts to the city.
  2. LEARNING FROM HISTORY: Since Payne Park was gifted to the City, various city administrations have discussed placing other buildings in the park including city hall, government administrative offices and a correctional facility. City leadership of those times recognized the explicit desires of the Mr. and Mrs. Payne, and that the deed restrictions prohibited the use of Payne Park for those purposes.
  3. LOSS OF GREEN SPACE & WILDLIFE: The orchestra’s plan would remove 7 acres of open space including a lake, shade trees and an established wildlife habitat, replacing it with impervious concrete and asphalt. This is a huge amount of land — the equivalent of five football fields! Payne Park has a rich ecosystem which includes bald eagles, squirrels, ducklings and turtles. Where will they go when 7 acres gets paved over?
  4. TRAFFIC: The already congested US 301 intersection will be additionally burdened by 2,500 concertgoers before and after performances. Even in the 1950’s when traffic was far less, the baseball stadium in Payne Park was described as “one of the greatest traffic tangles in all of Florida”.
  5. SAFETY: Bottleneck traffic on Adams Lane will block a critical entrance to the Sarasota Police’s parking garage located directly across the street from the proposed Orchestra building. The Orchestra’s plan puts a new roadway by the Circus Playground. How safe will it be for children to enter and leave the playground? F.D.O.T. has already declared Washington Boulevard one of the most dangerous pedestrian through ways in the city.
  6. PAYNE PARK IS FREE: Public parks are free for everyone to enjoy. No ticket is required to use Payne Park, unlike the Orchestra’s performances. Payne Park users are diverse and from all socioeconomic groups. The cafe, tennis courts, skateboard park, walking trails and playground are enjoyed by all citizens, especially families, children and pets.
  1. PRECEDENT: Allowing the Orchestra to develop Payne Park would set a dangerous precedent and would open the “flood gates” to additional misuse of park lands at Payne Park and beyond.
  2. TAX PAYER INVESTMENT: A thoughtful master plan for Payne Park exists, and our community park has already received an estimated $20 million of taxpayer investments. Also, in November 2018, citizens voted to approve the $65 million dollar bond issue to extend the Legacy Trail to Payne Park. Survey responses from the recent Sarasota Parks and Recreation Master Plan make it clear that Sarasota’s citizens are clamoring for more, not less, opportunities to enjoy outdoor recreation..
  3. ENVIRONMENTAL BURDEN: Quoting the Manatee-Sarasota Sierra Club: “The Orchestra cites global warming as their reason to quit participation in the future $200 million Bayfront project. Their new vision… eliminates seven acres of open public green space, a wildlife-filled lake and 2 ponds, and numerous shade trees. It is ironic that orchestra’s vision to destroy and pave over an existing healthy urban ecosystem at Payne Park will actually contribute to global warming.”
  4. EFFECTIVE AND EQUITABLE PROCESS: Should city leaders decide they wish to start gifting public park lands to private enterprises, then the correct procedure would be a “Request for Proposal”. This is not a childhood game where the first organization to “call dibs” wins. The process should be opened up to anyone who desires free and valuable land in the City. Perhaps the sold-out West Coast Black Theater would like more space? Or perhaps a line dancing hall or a roller derby arena?
  5. EMPTY PROMISES: The Orchestra has said that tennis and other park “amenities” would be maintained or improved. This is simply inaccurate – it is impossible to “maintain or improve” the destruction of wetlands and the displacement of established wildlife habitat. Further, what orchestra donor wants to see their donations steered towards better tennis versus a better orchestra? The Orchestra’s promises are not credible and it is unlikely they will raise sufficient funds to “maintain or improve” existing park amenities.

How can you help?

Your voice matters! Contact the Sarasota City Commission TODAY! commissioners@sarasotafl.gov

Mayor Liz Alpert

phone: (941) 954-4115  ·  email: Liz.Alpert@sarasotafl.gov

Commissioner Hagen Brody

phone: (941) 954-4115  ·  email: Hagen.Brody@sarasotafl.gov

Commissioner Shelli Freeland Eddie

phone: (941) 954-4115  ·  email: Shelli.FreelandEddie@sarasotafl.gov

Vice-Mayor Jen Ahearn Koch

phone: (941) 954-4115  ·  email: Jen.Ahearn-Koch@sarasotafl.gov

Commissioner Willie Charles Shaw

phone: (941) 954-4115  ·  email: Willie.Shaw@sarasotafl.gov

City Manager Tom Barwin

phone: (941) 954-4102  ·  email: Thomas.Barwin@sarasotafl.gov

Let's keep our public park both public and park!