In attendance of the Sept. 9 Virtual Town Hall included City Manager Matthew Morton, Parks & Recreation Director Lauren Johnston, Community Recreation Manager Brittany McDermott.
WATCH THE VIRTUAL TOWN HALL HERE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lTw2d7wmFC0
CM Morton opened the Town Hall explaining to residents that this Sept. 9 VTH will be the first of the new monthly series of department discussions, transitioning from the Covid-19 Town Halls. This first meeting was dedicated to Parks & Recreation, with exciting information to be discussed about what's been happening with the Department in 2020. Mr. Morton recognized that, at its core, Parks & Recreation is about people. Making people the purpose of our work, not a distraction, is how our staff moves forward to make the department the best place to Explore, Connect and Play. 12:26-12:27
Director Johnston and Manager McDermott opened the meeting emphasizing that the department goal is to enhance our community by making everyone feel welcome - by making Palm Coat a great place to live, visit and recreate. Quality of life here is enhanced through all of our programs and facilities.
Why are parks important? Studies show that 3 in 5 people visited parks during Covid 19. 77% of adults consider parks important when choosing a place to live. Also, living near a park always tends to raise property values.
Statistics for Palm Coast Parks & Recreation:
- 73 people serve as staff members
- 8 playgrounds
- 6 public arts pieces highlight facilities
- 2,000 activities offered
- 115,000 rounds of golf have been played this year
- 130+ miles of trails for bikers/hikers
- 16 tennis courts
During the pandemic, the department took opportunities from the unique challenges presented:
- Provided quality recreation activities while respecting DOH guidelines
- Created events in safe environments
- Maintained accurate and engaging communications with residents
- Increased activity in parks and on trails during stay-at-home orders
Staff learned to work from home IMMEDIATELY and parks maintenance crews stepped up to stay out on the job, working different shifts on different sites to stay safe while maintaining quality work. Virtual programs became very popular, as staff used their own homes and families to demonstrate unique exercise, cooking or craft ideas.
The Mayor's 90/90 Challenge (asking participants to complete 90 miles of work in 90 days) was altered a bit during the pandemic. Community members were asked to engage virtually and through social media, tracking minutes for unique activities like roller skating, yoga or even house chores. Palm Coast Connect tracked these minutes by converting them to miles, so the program became more successful than ever. We had 249 participants, logging on 69,000 minutes of exercise.
Coming Back to the Community Center, Parks, Trails: In order to keep everything safe, fun and clean, staff is working slowly to make sure everyone feels happy to return to activities.
Opening of Summer Camp: This year, we welcomed 142 campers for 10 weeks of camp in 3 locations. Staff worked hard on safety protocols so camp was offered in unique ways. Programs brought life back to the community center, to the kids, staff and parents. The best part was that not one single case of Covid 19 was reported all summer for all participants and staff.
Food Truck Tuesdays: This favorite activity was offered again beginning in August and over 360 residents enjoyed dinner during a three hour period.
New Fall Activity Guide: The Guide highlights over 36 activities this fall and is available online via Palm Coast Connect. Things are not yet normal because staff is learning how to be adaptable and creative in this coronavirus environment. Some sessions are virtual and some are more flexible, encouraging fun while staying safe.
New fall programs will include:
- Saltwater Fishing Tournaments in Sept/Oct/Nov for families
- Holiday Light Fight when families and businesses can decorate and dress up their homes to the hilt during the holiday season. There will be judged competitions and tours set up with maps distributed so the entire community can enjoy the festivities more safely.
- Chalk A Lot for families to use chalk to express their artistic creativity
- Pollinator Bio Blitz, in September, encourages residents to enjoy parks while observing pollination species such as butterflies, flowers and plants.
- Running Series will take place monthly after the Oct. 11 Pink on Parade (aka Pink Army Run) takes place virtually this year. Parks & Recreation will create a monthly series of races, highlighting a different park each month.
Palm Coast Tennis Center: The Center resumed operations in May, utilizing safer play. A grant was awarded to the facility to help reopening with a large order for cleaning supplies.
Pickle Ball: The department began offering beginner sessions and also a Pickle Ball Open on Fridays. The next step will hopefully be a Regional Racquet Center at the Tennis Center, with dedicated courts.
Palm Harbor Golf Club: The Club opened in May with abbreviated tee times. Golfers were thrilled to be out on the course again. The Men's League has organized to donate to the Parks & Recreation Scholarship program to help send a child to summer camp. During the fall, golfers will see new kitchen facilities at The Green Lion and upgraded bathrooms and flooring across the facility.
Palm Coast Aquatic Center: Although the Aquatic Center could not open this season, staff is working hard to staff accredited, take new safety classes and keep the facility in top shape so they can re-open again soon.
Little League Tournaments: Our Little League is growing strong and utilizing our fields very often.
Indian Trails Sports Complex: Staff has converted two soccer fields into three softball and one baseball field.
Holland Park: Palm Coast favorite facility is still under construction and progress is coming along. Right now, upgrades have been completed at the bocce Ball courts, LED lights have been added at the park, new playground equipment has been added (final touches are presently underway) and the highly anticipated Splash Pad will be finished by the end of this year.
Palm Coast Community Center: There will be a 'soft' opening for the community center in fall, meaning that a few groups may be allowed to start utilizing the facility (dependent on DOH guidelines and ability of the activity to social distance). Staff is also working on solutions to parking issues, a City Council priority.
Art District in Town Center: Parks & Recreation is working to establish an Arts District in the Innovation District segment in Town Center. It will bring together arts and culture organizations in our community to engage residents, draw visitors and encourage economic development. The area will be a place for social gathering and artistic expression, a destination that will revitalize Town Center with galleries, sculpture gardens, music and live performances. Presently, legal boundaries will be set by the City Council.
Explore, Connect, Play: This marketing concept will be seen and heard commonly throughout the community, tying the department goals, plans and ideals. It is the perfect phrase to represent exactly what the quality of life in Palm Coast is all about. 12:25-1:05
- What is the status of any new pickleball courts in Palm Coast and/or Flagler County? Lots of 8 or more court complexes in surrounding counties (Volusia, Putnam, St. Johns) but not in Flagler.
CM Morton and Director Johnston said that Pickle Ball courts were funded in 2019 by the City Council and that the courts are a major priority for citizens, the department, as well as Council. Six courts for Ralph Carter Park are being discussed.
- I wanted to ask about shade at the benches at Holland Park tennis courts. Lots of people, many of them older, play tennis and/or pickleball there and there is no shade. Even the gazebo is closed. Is the city considering installing shade cover over the benches, as there are at other parks such as Belle Terre tennis courts? It would be greatly appreciated.
Director Johnston acknowledged that her staff is presently in the final stages of receiving quotes to purchase shades for the tennis courts at Holland Park. We're hoping to have the shades installed by December.
- What is your plan for the ending of the mask mandate?
CM Morton noted that the City is always working under DOH guidance with regards to wearing masks. So far, our community has been kept safer with the mandatory mask requirement and as long as the DOH continues its guidance that masks help to save lives, the City will abide. 1:06-1:12.
CM Morton reminded the public that from now on, Virtual Town Halls will be held monthly and they will focus on the work and focus of various City departments. The next session will cover the Engineering & Stormwater Department and he encourages members of the community to tune in. Meanwhile, he is grateful to Parks & Recreation for the great work they've done to keep us safe and connected and he looks forward to seeing all the exciting upcoming programs come to fruition. 1:12-1:14.