The City of Treasure Island has a waterfront park that looks like private property, and may have been designed to look that way. Former city commissioner Tim Ramsberger owns two homes next to the park, which is located at 122nd Avenue and Lagoon Lane. In multiple ways, the park is unlike any of the other six parks the city has along Lagoon Lane, including the lack of a sign informing the public that the land is a park.
Furthering the impression that the park is private property, Ramsberger has asked at least one park visitor “what are you doing back here” and told them they had no right to be there. Also, an inviting city-owned park bench has been moved out of view several times. Once, the bench found its way on to Ramsberger’s dock.
Earlier this year, Ramsberger’s reputation suffered a blow when he landed a $146,000 job with Pinellas County. The hiring violated a state law requiring that the position be advertised. Ramsberger was the only applicant for the unadvertised position.
When asked in June about this hiring, which took place in January, the county did not respond to questions from the Guardian.
Acting on an anonymous tip, the Guardian investigated. The park in question at 122nd Ave and Lagoon lane can be seen in the next picture below. The following was observed.
- None of the other six parks on Lagoon Lane have a concrete curb (see additional pictures below).
- There is no sign to suggest that this park is a public space. The parks immediately adjacent to this park, on 121st Avenue and on 123rd avenue have blue city signs, thereby indicating that a visitor is on city property. Other parks along Lagoon Lane have signs that expressly say “Public Park”.
- No other city park on Lagoon Lane has crushed shells as surface material, a bone of contention for neighbors who say that dogs don’t like to walk on crushed shells. The exact same crushed shells were observed on Ramsberger’s property at 12116 Lagoon Lane, and residents believe that Ramsberger wanted the city to install crushed shells to keep dog walkers out of the park.
- The previously mentioned bench and trash can seen off to the side. The trash can seems to be deliberately hidden behind a utility-owned electrical cabinet.
There is a second of row palm trees behind the photographer in the above picture, which increase the seclusion of the park, and the appearance of it being private property. Below is a picture showing both rows of palm trees, on both the east and west side of the curb. Click on the picture for a larger and better view.
The park didn’t always look this way. The appearance was quite different just two years ago (click here for picture). A new park was first discussed at a city commission workshop on 4/1/2014, and then slated for a vote on 4/15. The park was part of a larger project, and the agenda item was titled as follows:
“Consideration of Res 14-30, Gulf Blvd Undergrounding Engineering, Design and CEI Services for Gulf Blvd-Lagoon restoration”
Because the item said “Gulf Blvd“, but not “Lagoon Lane” (underlining added by us), citizens may have thought the discussion involved a lagoon, i.e. a body of water, or a company named “Lagoon”.
Ramsberger, then a city commisisoner, made a motion seconded by commissioner Phil Collins, to approve the project. Resident Ed Gayton complained in public comment that “once again the Commission was provided information at the last minute” and that “the public has not been given a chance to review the information.” Ramsberger withdrew his motion and the matter was tabled until the next commission meeting.
The meeting minutes don’t explain why Ramsberger voted on an item that at least had the appearance of a conflict of interest, given his ownership of the two properties immediately south of the park.
When the new park came up for a vote again on 5/6/2014, the word “Lagoon” did not appear in the item description. With no discussion, the item was approved 4-1, with Ramsberger once again making the motion to pass it and with commissioner Carol Coward as the sole “no” vote.
Colliens Byrd of 12127 Gulf Blvd told the Guardian that he likes to go to the 122nd Avenue park to relax. One day in August or September, Ramsberger approached Byrd and asked what he was “doing back here”, and told he him had no right to be there.
“I thought it was a racial thing at first because I’m one of the few black people who live in the area”, Byrd said. “But I’ve now learned that he has treated others more or less the same way. He was very rude, I told him he should introduce himself like I was trying to do.”
Byrd works in the circulation department at the Gulf Beaches Public Library in Madeira Beach, despite being classified at totally disabled by the Social Security Administration. “I’m classed as disabled because of all the medications I take”, Byrd continued. “I have diabetes and I’m HIV positive, and I’m not ashamed of it. You can write about my medical issues if you like.” Byrd has lived at his present address for 3 years.
In June 2015, Ramsberger was issued a demolition permit for the house at 12116 Lagoon Lane, and a new house appears to have been completed later that same year. The old property can be seen below in the series of 2014 photos from Google showing the parks along Lagoon Lane. The new house can be seen immediately below.
We would have reached out to Ramsberger with questions about this matter, but he has not responded to requests for comments in the past. As per our policy, we then do not seek comment again. However, we will update this article should he have any comments for publication.
This article is a direct result of information provided by multiple people who contacted us after our first article about Ramsberger. We expect more reader input after this article, and always welcome it. Readers can also comment in the “Leave a Reply” field towards the bottom of this page.
Update to article 10/27/2016: we spoke to city manager Reid Silverboard, who objected to our previous characterization (now removed) that we “contacted” him for comment about this matter.
Silverboard was copied on an e-mail on 9/6 to the city clerk where we said we would write an article, and asked for comment and answers to questions that we wanted to ask face to face. The only portion of our e-mail that was in bold said “If the city if willing to answer questions and has any comments, then let’s talk later this week.”
Because he was only copied on the e-mail, Silverboard said that is was a “lie” to say that we contacted him, and said that we should publish that in this article. Silverboard further said that the facts of this project show that we “don’t know what you are talking about” and that any insinuation that the city built a private park for Ramsberger is false.
We offered to publish an expanded response from the city, but Silverboard said “the damage has already been done”, and that he was late for a meeting.
We hope to provide the city’s position later, or more importantly: we hope that the city does three things: 1/ provide any information they to affected residents 2/ post a sign saying it is a city park 3/ not allow Ramsberger to move the city-owned bench and the city-owned trash can around in the park so as to create the appearance that it is a private park.
As always, the Guardian reports and the readers decide. Please like our Facebook page to find out when we publish new stories.
PICTURES FROM GOOGLE SHOWING ALL PARKS IN MARCH 2014 – CLICK ON ANY FOR A LARGER VIEW
SELECTION OF OUR PICTURES FROM AUGUST 2016 – CLICK ON ANY FOR A LARGER VIEW