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Monday, Sep 01, 2014
Central Tampa News

East Tampa seniors want their own center

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EAST TAMPA - A dozen or so seniors showed up at a recent community meeting in identical black tee shirts bearing the logo, "Jazzy Seniors."

They were making a show of solidarity for a proposal to create a senior center at the Ragan Park Community Center, 1200 E. Lake Ave.

"We want to keep the focus on having a senior center in East Tampa," said Betty Bell, president of the Highland Pines Community Task Force.

But city officials say that multi-generational community centers, such as the one at Ragan Park, offer activities for all ages, and do a better job of serving neighborhoods. Senior centers work best, they say, when they are part of senior housing.

"Where would the kids go?" said Greg Bayor, the city's parks and recreation director, responding to an email query.

But the seniors say they end up shuttling between various centers to participate in senior programs and need their own activity center.

The city operates the Barksdale Senior Center, 1801 Lincoln Ave., on a portion of MacFarlane Park in West Tampa. Seniors from Tampa and Hillsborough County participate in its programs.

On Tuesday, the Jazzy Seniors group attended the monthly meeting of the East Tampa Community Revitalization Partnership, an advisory group that works with city officials on redevelopment strategies in the East Tampa special tax district.

Rev. Essie Sims, the partnership's president, said solutions can be discussed with the city's parks and recreation officials, though likely not the conversion of Ragan Park to a senior center.

"We're going to explore all the options," he said. "Please be patient with us."

The seniors say they aren't giving up on having an East Tampa senior center.

"We are ready to meet the challenge," said Bell.

ksteele@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7652

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