Did you know that the City of Fernandina Beach has added a new park to its collection of nearly two dozen properties that preserve and showcase Amelia Island’s natural beauty and give residents places to sit, walk, grow, and play? Simmons Road Park is now open and ready for you to do just that!
Developed in partnership with 8 Flags Playscapes, Inc., Simmons Road Park is the third in the 8 Flags collection of public spaces. “8 Flags Playscapes, Inc. is a non-profit grassroots community organization dedicated to building places where playing is fun for everyone,” says Trey Warren, president of the organization. Warren has been working with 8 Flags Playscapes since its inception.
The team made its first impact on the island by ideating and building Pirate Playground behind the Atlantic Rec Center, where individuals of all abilities and ages can play. But that wasn’t enough for this group of dedicated Islanders. The organization next conceptualized and developed Egan’s Creek Park on Atlantic Avenue, the first universally accessible property dedicated to physical wellbeing, with a walking path, exercise equipment, and most recently, an added playground.
It didn’t take long for the City of Fernandina Beach to appreciate the value of 8 Flags Playscapes, and it is thrilled to work in partnership with them. “As you look around our island, we have an abundance of properties, but they are mostly clustered on the northside,” says Fernandina Beach Parks & Recreation Director Nan Voit. “The Simmons Road property was an opportunity for us to extend our reach.”
Voit is right, as the new park’s location adjacent to the Amelia River-to-Sea bike trail could not be more perfect. If you enjoy a pedal along Amelia Island’s network of bike trails, Simmons Road Park is a perfect rest stop, with its packed gravel parking, bike racks, accessible bathrooms, and pet-friendly spaces.
“We are excited to be part of opening another inclusive property,” says Benjamin Morrison, 8 Flags vice president and designer of all three 8 Flags properties. “Simmons Road Park offers the first universally accessible nature trail on the island. We seek to provide spaces for all residents and visitors to enjoy, not just those without mobility challenges.”
In the design, the team considered as many people groups as possible, even consulting with a team of professionals on autism from University of Florida to account for proper sensory and spacing needs.
As you visit the park and stand under its welcoming pavilion, the quarter-mile nature trail pulls you in like a magnet. “Mom, what’s around that corner?” my son, Carter, asked as he dribbled his red-and-black soccer ball down the trail. Around those corners were canopies of oaks with birds’ nests and squirrels jumping from branch to branch.
Relaxing under a blue Florida spring sky, we walked, laughed with our friends, and played with the ball. “What we are trying to cultivate,” says Morrison, “is the peace of our island, the joy of your time in it, and memories with loved ones of all abilities.”
The Amelia Island community is crucial for the success of 8 Flags Playscapes, and the Simmons Road Park bears the mark of the island’s generosity through its tree, bench, and monetary donations. But the work isn’t finished. Visit 8flagsplayscapes.org to learn more about their Sit, Walk, Grow, Play campaign, and how you can take part in bringing a new accessible playground at Simmons Road Park to life.