A Place for Everyone
Amelia Island, have you heard? There’s a new park on Atlantic Avenue! And it’s for everyone, not just kids or adults with perfect mobility! Okay, it’s not exactly a new park, but Egan’s Creek Park at 2251 Atlantic Avenue sure looks like it, with its gorgeous landscaping, kayak launch, quarter-mile track, and universally accessible exercise stations, to name just a few of the amenities delivered by 8 Flags Playscapes’ redesign work. “If we were to ask for a park for our family, this is it,” says Marlene Chapman, who frequents the rejuvenated park with her daughter, Taylor, who became paralyzed five-years-ago in a diving accident. “Taylor loves the availability of the exercise equipment and the opportunity to enjoy the fishing dock and kayak launch. It’s the best park around for all levels of ability – not just a few!” “It’s a transformation from what it was a year ago to what it is now,” confirms Aaron Morgan, president of 8 Flags Playscapes. Transformation is what 8 Flags Playscapes is all about, with Egan’s Creek Park being the second of its projects. The first, Pirate Playground, is just down the road. The organization was founded to build that playground with a vision of enhancing the community through the development of recreational environments that are universally accessible to all. The extraordinary success of the Pirate Playground project, a partnership between 8 Flags Playscapes and the City of Fernandina Beach, led to the idea of remaking Egan’s Creek Park. “The City believed in our ability to produce a quality product, and so did donors who were overwhelmingly generous and allowed us to finish this project in just a couple of years from the initial concept,” says Aaron. A major donor was Benjamin Morrison of Cotner and Associates, who was honored with the Elsie Harper Volunteer of the Year Award this spring for his commitment to this project. “We can’t say enough good things about Benjamin and Cotner Associates Architects,” explains Trey Warren, vice president 8 Flags Playscapes. “The bulk of the organization and almost all of the community partnerships composed of in-kind donations of time and talent came directly from Benjamin and his professional relationships with the construction industry in Nassau County.” Benjamin is a huge advocate for public-private partnerships. “These partnerships allow projects to be executed in a shorter timeframe and lower cost than if they remained in the public realm,” he explains. “For example, through the generosity of the numerous local businesses that provided us with discounted labor and materials as well private donors and foundation grants, we were able to deliver a park that would have cost the City $700,000 for an investment of only $175,000 in public funding. That’s turning each dollar of public funds into four dollars, a win-win situation.” The park is a win for everyone, with its meditation labyrinth, pet watering station and fire hydrant, bird watching platform, bat box, fishing dock, kayak launch, quarter-mile track surrounded by universally accessible exercise stations, and a large field perfect for a Frisbee or football toss. “It’s literally like everyone in the town has a free gym membership,” says 8 Flags Playscapes treasurer Sharyl Wood. “This is also the only lighted walking path in the city thanks to the state of the art LED lighting, a generous donation by Florida Public Utilities.” But that’s not all! 8 Flags Playscapes is now visioning the second phase of this project, planning for a universally accessible playground targeted at a slightly older audience than Pirate Playground. “It will present an adventure-style component, more physical, more athletic,” reveals Benjamin. “We are excited about bringing this to fruition by mid-2018, but we will need help!” The 8 Flags team is overwhelmingly grateful to its partners in the community. For a roster of donors, to get involved by participating as a financial or in-kind donor, or to learn more, visit 8flagsplayscapes.org or email [email protected].