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Kissimmee's Lancaster Ranch to become large park space

KISSIMMEE — From Lisandra Roman's Latin American and barbeque restaurant on South John Young Parkway, she has a view of more than 100 acres of pastureland.

Roman did not know the city owned it all. When she heard the property could be turned into a park, she wanted to find out why.

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"I think we need housing," Roman said. "We have a lot of people without homes."

She was one of handful of people at the Kissimmee Civic Center on Wednesday to discuss the community's vision for the Lancaster Ranch, which the city bought for about $5.3 million in 2001.

Officials agreed to use the site for recreational purposes when they purchased it, a spokeswoman said. Since then, the 110-acre parcel remained populated by cattle and dotted with live oaks. Having unveiled their $30 million Lakefront Park renovation more than a year ago, officials are now ready to move forward with plans.

Kissimmee leases the land to the family that sold it, parks and recreation assistant director Steve Lackey said.

But the ranch, bordered by Shingle Creek to the south, could eventually become a connector along the Shingle Creek Regional Trail, Lackey said.

"[It] lends itself to a wide variety of things," he said. "It's a real asset to have that much land."

Wednesday's workshop was the second public meeting about the future of that particular site, and the second one Roman attended.

Other stakeholder groups have also met to discuss the project, officials said. Lackey said master-planning efforts have sought the community's recreational and park needs, emphasizing the ranch. AECOM Technical Services will create the plan, Lackey said. A survey will be sent to residents to gauge other recreational needs.

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"It really is an open palette currently," landscape architect Michael Brown said during his presentation about the ranch Wednesday.

Brown, of AECOM Technical Services, said stakeholders so far have expressed a desire for anything from picnic areas to soccer and baseball fields.

On Wednesday, attendees were presented with a poster of possibilities for the ranch, including a performance area, pickle ball court and classes for seniors.

Roman said she'd be in favor of a dog park or amphitheater, while her 12-year-old daughter wanted a water park.

"I think we can have it all," Roman said with a laugh.

jinman@orlandosentinel.com or 407-420-5002

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