It’s hard to believe it is one year since Pirate Playground opened. “We are amazed at the positive reviews and feedback we receive from visitors to Pirate Playground,” smiles Trey Warren, longtime volunteer and vice president of 8 Flags Playscapes, Inc., the non-profit organization behind Pirate Playground. “The project has exceeded all expectations. We truly live in a wonderful, generous community.”
Many in the community donated time, money, and manpower to make this unique project a reality. “Reflecting on the success of Pirate Playground, our team decided, why stop working when we have such a great opportunity?” explains Aaron Morgan, founder and president of 8 Flags Playscapes, which is now embarking on a new project. “Egan’s Creek Park on Atlantic Avenue is an obvious opportunity with great potential, particularly because of its location on the creek.”
“Ever since my own children were young, I’ve driven by Egan’s Creek Park and thought, what a shame to see such a big field that hardly anyone uses,” says 8 Flags Playscapes treasurer Sharyl Wood. With design help from board member Benjamin Morrison of Cotner Associates, Inc. Architects, the 8 Flags Playscapes team is ready to give the park a total makeover. The redesign includes activities for people of all ages to enjoy. “We want to maximize the space and build structures that are accessible to people of all abilities, just like Pirate Playground,” says Aaron.
“A few weeks ago, we had the pleasure of meeting a young boy at Pirate Playground who was in his own hand-crafted wheel chair. To see him playing in the sand with the other kids, working those sensory skills, and then playing musical instruments. It was amazing! His mom said, ‘Nowhere else can he do this,’” shares volunteer and committee member Lynn Tennille.
“The accessibility focus is the facet of our work that makes it different and special,” confirms Trey. A centerpiece component of the new space will be a quarter-mile fit trail that will be accessible even to wheelchairs. Along the trail will be universally accessible workout stations, like bench press and shoulder raise stations that even someone using a wheelchair can utilize.
Other design features will include an accessible bird watching platform, fishing dock, restrooms, and a yoga garden. The existing baseball field will be rejuvenated, and the multi-purpose greenspace maintained. “Our goal is to make it a park for everybody,” says Aaron.
The crown jewel of the project will be a universally accessible kayak launch into the creek. “The idea of a ramp for kayaks is not new, but the willingness of our community to come together and work with the City to make the idea a reality, this is new. And we have a proven model for it in Pirate Playground,” notes Trey.
Sharyl is thrilled about the new park, crediting her nephew, who has spina bifida, for her inspiration. “He has a hard time walking longer distances, especially on rough ground,” says Sharyl. “As with others in his circumstance, his great desire is to participate like everyone else. Anything we can do to make venues—like our parks—universally accessible allows one and all to enjoy them without having to accept the label ‘handicapped.’”
“8 Flags Playscapes is real people making a real difference in our community,” says Lynn. “We are proud of what we’ve accomplished at Pirate Playground, and the awesome news is that 8 Flags Playscapes has another chance to work together with the City of Fernandina Beach to do it again!”
The budget for Egan’s Creek Park makeover is $330,000. Thus far, $50,000 has been raised, with thousands more through in-kind donations. Additionally, the project has applied for partnership with the City and is waiting to hear if another $150,000 may be granted. If you are interested in donating or volunteering, visit 8flagsplayscapes.org or contact Aaron Morgan at ((904) 335-7253.