Palm Coast - Some of the best words to describe the approach to 2020 are flexibility and adaptability. For Parks & Recreation, those adjectives fit perfectly.

At the on-set of the pandemic in March, Parks staff swiftly transitioned from in-person activities to virtual activities. Cooking demonstrations, play sessions, educational activities and other fun programs were offered on social media. Organizations in Palm Coast also joined in by offering virtual entertainment through the Mayor's 'Rise Up Palm Coast' Initiative.

During 2020, 'virtual' was the preferred method of assembly. While major City events had to be canceled due to the pandemic, the team creatively presented meaningful and respectful virtual ceremonies for Memorial Day, July 4 and Veterans Day. They also engineered interactive, yet socially distant holiday activities such as the first-ever 'Holiday Light Fight' allowing residents to decorate their homes through a unique contest, and showcasing that spirit through sophisticated geographic mapping technology provided by the City's Information Technology Department.

Once Gov. Ron DeSantis announced the Phase 1 "Safe. Smart. Step-by-Step. Plan for Florida's Recovery" in May, the team worked hard to safely open recreational amenities in phases, like parks and some facilities including the Palm Harbor Golf Club and Palm Coast Tennis Center. Later in the summer, with safety plans in place, staff reopened the Community Center. Steps were taken to ensure a fun and clean summer camp. And staff collaborated with local emergency and county officials for a smooth and efficient voting site operation for area citizens.

In addition to facilities, parks maintenance crews were busier than ever. These 22 men and women maintained multiple parks, trails and fields on a daily basis, which are a valued amenity as outdoor recreation became one of the safest activities for families. The team did not skip a beat as they continued to mow, weed, spray, rake and clean - keeping up with an increased demand during trying times.

Though daily duties of Parks & Recreation looked different in 2020, experience and training was gained, and progress on major projects like Holland Park were still full steam ahead. Just recently this month, many new features of the playground were opened to families. Next year, the full park, including the brand new splash pad, will be the family-favorite, regional destination as it hosts adults and children alike this spring and many years to come.

In 2021, more facilities will reopen, such as the Palm Coast Aquatics Center pool in April. Plans are being developed for transforming the Palm Coast Tennis Center into the Regional Racquet Center. The team will host a series of meetings in January of 2021 to get resident feedback to guide them on next steps - making sure citizens have a hand in those decisions.

New recreational programming is being offered in 2021. Classes for adults, youth, toddlers and also special events like the Mayor's 90/90 Challenge, Egg'Stravaganza and the NCCAA Youth Sports Clinic are back. New programs to help caregivers and those that address health and community topics will also be offered. Spring camp is also being offered and planning is underway for summer camp in 2021. Registration can be found at www.parksandrec.fun/camps. You can see the full offerings in the Winter/Spring 2021 Activity Guide by clicking here. Please note, COVID-19 guidelines are in place for community programs to prevent the spread of the illness and protect everyone who chooses to participate.

The new year also brings an added emphasis to the arts. The Palm Coast Arts District in Town Center is a place for social gathering and artistic expression by providing a destination for locals and tourists alike. Our Arts District, led by the Parks & Recreation Department along with many local partners, will be a hub of activity that attracts a plethora of businesses. You can learn more by clicking here. Look for more arts collaborations and programming - like the Chalk Art Fest scheduled in July - and others in 2021.

While this is not an exhaustive list of all the important work happening in Parks & Recreation, it captures some of the highlights of bringing the fun to Palm Coast.

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