NAPLES, Fla. — The first phase of a major park project - years in the making - opened Thursday in Naples. City officials say the connecting trails in Baker Park - on Riverside Drive between Goodlette-Frank Road and the Gordon River - offer pedestrians and bicyclists a safe way to get across town.
"You could park at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida or Naples Zoo parking lot, get your bike or walk through Baker Park, and get to downtown and the beach," said Dana Souza, Community Services Director for the City of Naples.
The trails also connect to the Gordon River Greenway bridge. The park offers features such as a kayak launch, an exercise court, a performance area for special events, and a wide terrace overlooking the Gordon River.
"It just has a natural element to it," said Donna Treadwell of Naples. "You've got the river on the one side. They did a great job with the landscaping."
The park was named after Jay and Patty Baker, philanthropists in Naples who donated two million dollars toward the park's development.
"We're thrilled, because we thought it was something that would be a great thing for the community," Jay Baker said.
Phase II of the park is still under construction. Souza said it will offer a community center, and a rare thing for Southwest Florida - a hill.
"We took the soil that would have had to be hauled off the site, and created this knoll where you'll be able to have a pretty expansive view of the river," Souza said.
Baker Park's Phase II is expected to open in October. The total cost for the project is $14.5 million.