Folly Farm benefactor donates $50,000 for park amenities

Safety Harbor Leisure Services Director Andrea Norwood and City manager Matt Spoor pose with former Folly Farms owner George Weiss after he gave the city $50,000 for improvements to the new public park. Credit: City of Safety Harbor.

Safety Harbor Leisure Services Director Andrea Norwood and City Manager Matt Spoor pose with former Folly Farms owner George Weiss and his dog, Coco, after Weiss gave the city $50,000 for improvements to the new public park. Credit: City of Safety Harbor.

Former Folly Farm owner George Weiss, who donated a portion of his 10-acre property to Safety Harbor in late 2014, recently gave the city an additional $50,000 to help pay for amenities at the new public park.

Currently home to the city’s community garden, the onetime horse farm on Martin Luther King Street North has been undergoing renovations and improvements ever since Weiss donated eight acres of the land in November 2014 under the agreement that it would only be used as a public, passive park space.

Now in the third year of a five-year development project, city officials said the latest example of Mr. Weiss’ generosity would go towards amenities and improvements that have been scheduled for the property and help expedite the park’s planned grand opening this spring.

“George told us around the holidays he wanted to give us a check to help with the improvements to Folly Farm, but we didn’t know what to expect,” City Manager Matt Spoor told Safety Harbor Connect.

“Then, right near the holidays, he came in and gave me and (Leisure Services Director) Andrea (Norwood) a check for $50,000 and said we could use it for that.”

George Weiss donated 80 percent of his Folly Farms property to the City of Safety Harbor in 2014 under the agreement it would become a public, passive park space.

George Weiss donated 80 percent of his Folly Farms property to the City of Safety Harbor in 2014 under the agreement that it would become a public, passive park space.

In an official thank-you letter sent to Weiss and his family, Norwood said one-hundred percent of the money would go towards several amenities and improvements, including a children’s play area with a farm and garden theme, a butterfly garden with flowering plants, and improvements to the fencing, signage and landscaping at the park entrance.

“Leisure Services staff is extremely excited about the newest addition to the parkland inventory and the endless opportunities it will provide the residents and visitors of Safety Harbor,” Norwood wrote.

“Again, on behalf of the City Commission and staff, thank you for the generous donation.”

Future work at the park is scheduled to include cleaning up the wetlands and putting a restroom on the site, adding a gazebo and a long-term walking trail, and completely replacing the park’s perimeter fencing.

Spoor said Weiss’ donation will allow staff to have many of the amenities installed before the park’s targeted opening date.

2016 Safety Harbor Holiday Parade grand marshals George Weiss and Laura Kepner.

2016 Safety Harbor Holiday Parade grand marshals George Weiss and Laura Kepner.

“We’ll probably have a little grand opening in April or May,” he said. “Nothing major, but it will be open a little more consistently for the general public.”

“Most of the improvements will be done by then, so it’ll be open in the spring as a passive park for residents to use.”

Spoor also said the City Commission wanted to publicly thank Weiss, who served as the co-grand marshal of the 2016 Safety Harbor Holiday Parade, for the donation.

But as was the case with his previous contributions to the city, the 88-year-old didn’t want any publicity for his selfless act.

“We tried to get him to accept a public thank you in front of the commission, but he said the meetings are too late for him,” Spoor explained.

“George just wants to see something get done at the park, and he doesn’t want to get all the credit. Now we’re trying to get it done.”

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