Gainesville fences Lynch Park as part of refresh efforts

Fencing will keep Lynch Park closed until cleanup work is finished.
Fencing will keep Lynch Park closed until cleanup work is finished.
Photo by Seth Johnson

The city of Gainesville installed a six-foot fence around the perimeter of Haisley Lynch Park on Thursday to revitalize the space and continue downtown refresh efforts.  

The park, located just across from St. Francis House on S. Main Street, has been used by homeless individuals as shelter. Gainesville Fire Rescue Chief Joe Dixon said staff coordinated with GRACE Marketplace to get nine or 10 people placed within the shelter from Lynch Park.  

A city press release said the Gainesville Police Department (GPD) will watch the site during the repair work and after the park reopens. The department will monitor for violations of current codes concerning temporary shelters, staying overnight, fires, littering and leaving human waste. 

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“Officers also will maintain a regular presence to enforce park rules and policies after Lynch Park reopens,” the release said.  

Commissioner Cynthia Chestnut said on Friday that the transition was very orderly when closing Lynch Park.  

Dixon added that the effort wasn’t intended as an engagement of the homeless. He said the focus was the park and ongoing efforts to refresh downtown—like with sidewalk repairs happening near Harry’s.  

Signs across Lynch Park announced the May closing.
Photo by Seth Johnson Signs across Lynch Park announced the May closing.

However, the city has increased its homelessness efforts since an encampment on SW Fourth Avenue, just across from Lynch Park, drew public attention. Many people at that encampment had come from Lynch Park, according to the Gainesville Sun, and some returned after the city cleared the road.  

The city reallocated the use of $700,000 for homeless services in February. The funds were used to immediately add 10 beds at GRACE Marketplace. The shelter is working with architects to redo another building for an additional 20 beds. 

Having open beds means city officials can approach homeless individuals with shelter available.  

The park cleanup will cost around $15,000 and include trash pickup, sanitation, landscaping, power washing, planting and tree trimming. The city said Lynch Park has been scheduled for work, with the last project there happening in 2010.  

The effort is part of a larger downtown refresh coordinated with the city, Gainesville Community Reinvestment Area and downtown business owners.  

A group of business owners formed a group called Go Downtown. They led a cleanup event several weeks ago. The city has also finished sidewalk work on the street just north of Harry’s Seafood Bar & Grille.  

The city’s Public Works Department will next tackle the east side of Harry’s, removing the current trees before planting Bluff Oaks that shouldn’t impact sidewalks as the trees grow. 

Chestnut said city staff is working with Alachua County to figure out its response to Florida’s new homelessness law that takes effect Oct. 1. She said the county would take the lead concerning the new law.  

Dixon said any actions prompted by the law will happen at the city commission level. He said staff were looking at options and any cascading effects that might come from it, noting that questions still remained.  

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Use that $700,000 to buy bus tickets to NY and California for all the transients.