By Patrick McCallister
For Hometown News
Ormond Beach's new Andy Romano Park is four acres of beachfront family fun to some and now 600-feet of sandspurs to others.
At its last regular meeting, the Volusia County Council approved a request from Ormond to close 600 feet of beach driving in front of the park. The vote was 4-3. Before the vote, the council got an earful from about 10 opponents.
Daytona Beach resident Don Kane said the city's request affected all Volusians.
"This appears to me that Ormond Beach is trying to privatize the beach for its own use," he said.
However, a couple others told the council they liked the plan.
"It makes sense, it's a reasonable proposal," Shannon McLeish, Ormond Beach, said.
Councilman Pat Patterson, DeLand, said he backed the revocable prohibition because of his experience taking small children to the beach in the 1980s. He said beach traffic is enough to send a parent into paranoia.
"I remember the terror I had taking my two kids to the beach," he said. "I didn't enjoy my time at all."
The park at 839 S. Atlantic Ave. opened with fanfare on Saturday, Feb. 23. Loretta Moisio, Ormond's pubic information officer, said in an interview after the meeting that about 800 attended the event. The park features a shaded playground and ocean viewing areas, 190 parking spots, beach access, picnic tables with grills and other amenities, along with space for about 500 people.
It was created to attract families with children. Small children who'll have easy access to the beach. Ormond Beach Mayor Ed Kelley told the council that's why restricting driving was important.
"I look at this primarily as a safety issue," he said.
However, Councilman Josh Wagner, Port Orange, said he opposed any efforts to close more of Volusia County's 50 miles of beaches to driving without policy discussions that include mandatory reopening of portions elsewhere. He said if the council approved Ormond's request, other cities and private entities will swoop in for beach-driving restrictions.
"Once you open the door, they are going to come," he said. "Unless you do something that is a policy decision, there is no end."
Capt. Tammy Marris, public information officer for the Volusia County Beach Patrol, said in an interview that the county has about 16 miles of public beach driving with 33 ramps. Nine of them are closed on weekdays and December and January. The closest ramps to Andy Romano Park are Harvard and Cardinal drives. Harvard is about 600 feet south of the park; Cardinal about 1,200 north.
Ormond voters approved issuing $5 million in bonds to pay for the property and construction of the park back in 2010. Volusia County's ECHO program tossed in another $3.5 million to help purchase the site. The ECHO program helps pay for environmental, cultural, historic and outdoor programs.