Leesburg commissioner wants to restore park to former glory

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LEESBURG, Fla. —

A Leesburg commissioner believes the city is losing money to neighboring Tavares and wants to revive a once-popular park.

Venetian Gardens used to be a hot-spot for boating and water-skiing in the 1960s but not everyone is willing to turn back time.

When Leesburg City Commissioner Jay Hurley walks the shores of Venetian Gardens, he recalls the good old days.

"They used to have family events here. Fishing tournaments here. We had boat races here. It was just a lot of activity in Venetian Gardens," Hurley said.

That was decades ago. He said his attempts to restore what once was at the city-owned property have been frustrating.

Hurley said the last straw for him was when he saw a group of boaters from Leesburg at the city of Tavares marina.

"They're going by boat from here, and other people who live on the outskirts of Leesburg, will take their boats there as well," Hurley said.

Leesburg residents are spending their money there as well, according to Hurley.

Leesburg has made recent improvements at the 65-acre gardens, including new foot bridges.

"That was a cost of about $300,000, but it's just a beautiful addition with new wooden bridges," Leesburg city spokesperson Robert Sargent said.

Hurley also wants to lift the no-wake zone which would encourage boating and water-skiing.

Homeowners who live in a higher-end neighborhood that borders the park are opposed.

So far, the majority on the commission has refused to make a change. Hurley said he won't give up.

"I think the majority of Leesburg residents want to see something happen here and they want to see Leesburg take steps forward instead of the steps backward that we have in years gone by," Hurley said.