Residents living near a park and nature preserve in Collier County are petitioning to block a proposal to build more playing fields at North Collier Regional Park. The site on Livingston Road, south of Immokalee Road, is one of several sites that consultants for the county have floated as a place to build athletic facilities to attract sports tourism.
"You've got some great facilities, but there aren't enough of them, and essentially they're being completely booked," consultant Rob Hunden told county commissioners Tuesday, during a needs analysis presentation.
But people living near the park don't want the wetlands in the park's preserve to be replaced by more softball diamonds and soccer fields.
"This would be very detrimental to our community," said Cassandra Conrad, president of the nearby Wilshire Lakes homeowners association. "We like the idea of future sports in Collier County, but just not in our backyard."
Commissioners acknowledged the sensitivity of the preserve, but support the building of more sports facilities.
"Sports tourism has been going on for a while," said Commissioner Tom Henning. "These fields are needed by our existing children."
"I don't feel that this report has been appropriately vetted with the North Naples community surrounding the regional park," said Commissioner Georgia Hiller.
Consultants also recommended sites at City Gate, near I-75 and Collier Boulevard - which is also favored as a site for a possible spring training stadium for the Atlanta Braves.
The proposal to build into the preserve at North Collier Regional Park raised a red flag with Nicole Johnson at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida in Naples.
"You can't use the preserve as a placeholder for additional development," Johnson told Fox 4.
Commissioners decided to hold off on any decisions about the park and its preserve until a public meeting is held in July to discuss the issue. No date for the meeting has been set yet.
Conrad said that about 500 people had signed a petition against building into the preserve.