TAMPA (FOX 13) - Phil Bourquardez Park on North Tampa Street once welcomed people with a sign. Now, they're met by a fence with a padlock and a sign that reads, "no trespassing, keep out."
After continued complaints about garbage and unsanitary conditions, the City of Tampa decided to close it off.
Phil Bourquardez Park was a breath of fresh air in the middle of a growing city. Or, at least, that's what it was intended to be.
"It was a nice place to sit and be alone and no one would bother you," said Freddie Washington, a homeless man who spent most of his days there.
In recent years, it became a gathering space for Tampa's homeless population. Google Street View images from last July show a few small groups scattered throughout the park.
"Monday through Friday, there may be 20-30 people maximum," Washington said. "Saturdays, there could be as many as 50 people. People would pass out clothing and food."
This fueled complaints from neighbors about garbage, unattended items and even people using the once-public park as a public restroom.
"There's paper plates flying around. There's cups," said Richard Del Rosal, owner of Biki's Frame and Body Shop. "They have used the bathrooms all back behind the shop in different areas."
City spokeswoman Ashley Bauman told FOX 13 it became at "safety hazard" and a "sanitary issue." So, January 6, the city erected a fence, costing taxpayers $32,874.
Since the city considers it a "grassy area" and not a "designated park," officials didn't need a public vote or input to make the change.
"Quite a bit of a mess. It was really, really bad," Washington said.
Washington agrees there was a problem. He just wishes a fence wasn't the solution.
"The fence looks nice. You don't see any homeless people. But, the problem is now dispersed Tampa-wide," Washington said. "All he did was force these people from this park to other parks."
As Richard Del Rosal, after owning a business across the street for nearly 40 years, he's relieved.
"It looks good," Del Rosal said. "I thought it was a good deed. If you are from this neighborhood, you would know what I am speaking about because there is nobody there now. It looks like a park."
At this point, there are no plans to reopen this as a park. The city says it could be turned into anything, possibly even a transit hub if they move forward with the streetcar extension.