Wallace Brooks Park delays

A jogger using the Withlacoochee State Trail runs past Wallace Brooks Park in Inverness Monday morning as construction on the park continues. Due to complications with inclement weather, the projected completion date for the park's renovation has been moved back.

The only delay Inverness City Manager Frank DiGiovanni worried about that could keep the Depot District development project from its scheduled completion was rain.

That was in May when DiGiovanni told the Chronicle the $10 million project overhauling both Liberty and Wallace Brooks parks, as well as the Depot District, was even a little ahead of schedule and on time for October and the Oct. 25 Cooter Festival.

Heavy August rains and Hurricane Dorian changed all that.

The Depot District with its open-air pavilion, train station and water tower is still on time, DiGiovanni recently told the Chronicle. So is Liberty Park.

Wallace Brooks Parks is another story, now about two weeks behind, and not likely to open before November. That’s because it looks as much as the aftermath of a mudslide as it does a construction site finishing up the last month of work.  

 “It got so wet out there it was all mud,” Digiovanni said.

During August, Inverness saw 12.63 inches of rain, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. That was nearly 5 inches more than the August average rainfall for the city. It rained at least 20 of the month’s 31 days, according to Southwest Florida Water Management District records.

DiGiovanni convinced the city council last year to close both parks for renovations, saying it would be more cost efficient and the city would benefit from economies of scale. That’s because demolition and construction teams would need to move in with equipment and supplies just one time, rather than having to move from area to area as they close and reopen the parks and depot district.

It was a gamble, but one that DiGiovanni said was still the right one to make.

Also problematic was Hurricane Dorian, DiGiovanni said.

Although the storm didn’t hit Citrus County, workers still left the area and put the project on hold, waiting for the storm to pass, DiGiovanni said.

But the city manager said the weather is better now and construction crews will take advantage of it.

“Thank God it started drying,” he said. “They (construction workers) are moving like gangbusters right now.”

Meanwhile, the city still awaits the green light from the Southwest Water Management District for its Big Lake Henderson projects, namely a dock for public kayak and canoe launches, a dock for sculling and the local sculling teams such as the Rowing Organization of Citrus County Students (ROCCS), a nonprofit organization, and docks for motorized boats.

“I’m told everything is as it should be, but they (the permits) are not here yet,” he said.

But since the weather has already delayed the Wallace Brooks work, DiGiovanni said he thinks waiting for the permits may not make any difference. He said he thought the permits would have already arrived by now.  

“What can I do?” he said.

The combined Wallace Brooks Park renovations include:

- Walking paths with exercise stations, picnic areas and additional bathrooms.

- A beach volleyball court, and a cabana for under-roof meetings and events.

- Wallace Brooks Park will also be the site to enter Big Lake Henderson with its docks.

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Contact Chronicle reporter Fred Hiers at fred.hiers@chronicleonline.com or 352-397-5914.

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