For an enhanced digital experience, read this story in the ezine.
Parks Build Community continues Grand Avenue Park renovation
This year marks NRPA’s 10th Parks Build Community (PBC) project. Each year, a park is renovated or created in the city where the NRPA Annual Conference is held. For 2020, Grand Avenue Park in Orlando, Florida, was selected for renovation. The park is located southeast of the city center and is adjacent to a community center currently under renovation. Originally built as a school, the community center was designated as a historic landmark by the city of Orlando. Once completed, the community center will house a full-sized gymnasium, a pottery studio, and a full range of after-school and summer youth programs. The adjacent playground and park area were created in 1938 and are undergoing renovation as part of the PBC project.
“We have two parallel projects going on simultaneously at this site. The historic Grand Avenue Elementary School, built in 1926, was retired and slated for demolition a couple of years ago. The city of Orlando took ownership, and we’re restoring and repurposing the building as a neighborhood center and tripling its floor area with a new addition,” says Kenneth Pelham, landscape architect for the City of Orlando Families, Parks and Recreation Department (OFPRD). “That project is in the design and permitting stage, with construction to start early summer. It’ll wrap up in the summer of 2021. We intend it to be a showcase for our city. The NRPA Parks Build Community program gives us a fantastic opportunity to upgrade the adjacent park....We’ve completed the design of the amenities, and some of the items are already in production.”
“The Parks Build Community projects we have undertaken have had a range of positive effects on the local communities, from creating safe spaces for children to play, to providing outdoor exercise equipment to enhance the health and wellness of community members, to adding environmental features that improve access to trees and plantings,” says Kristine Stratton, NRPA president and chief executive officer. “NRPA, the City of Orlando Families, Parks and Recreation Department and corporate donors are committed to making significant renovations to transform this area into a vibrant public space where residents of all ages can gather and play.”
The Project Goes On
Earlier this year, everything changed dramatically with the onset of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Lives have changed, and the businesses and organizations supporting the park and recreation field have had to transform. In response to the pandemic, NRPA announced that the 2020 NRPA Annual Conference would be held remotely, not in Orlando, as previously scheduled. Nonetheless, amid all this chaos and uncertainty, the 2020 Parks Build Community project will carry on. The renovation of Grand Avenue Park continues and will open in October as initially planned.
NRPA, OFPRD and our PBC partners have dedicated themselves to seeing this project through to completion despite the hurdle of COVID-19. “I am very happy to say that the 2020 Parks Build Community project, Grand Avenue Park, will be completed,” says Stratton. “We remain dedicated to our partnership with OFPRD and our generous corporate donors to complete the renovation of this 12-acre park. NRPA recognizes how important this park is to the community and the people it serves.”
We Couldn’t Do It Without Our Donors
“This is the first time that we’ve been involved with a PBC project,” says Kevin Kinsley, brand leader, Playground Grass, a subsidiary of ForeverLawn. “We have done thousands of jobs in Florida and [our involvement] is a small gesture of appreciation to all of the business Florida has provided to our company over the years. We are happy to step in and play a part in this project because, ultimately, it’s going to be a great park for the community.”
Designing, manufacturing the products and finishing the build are difficult tasks during a quarantine. “This is a new world for all of us and has presented unique challenges,” says Pelham. “NRPA’s member companies are negotiating how to manufacture the pieces around plant closures and personnel limits. I’m fortunate in that I’ve been able to make the shift to work from home seamlessly; it’s much more difficult for a company operating under stay-at-home orders to build something. We’re profoundly grateful for the dedication of these companies to see it through, and we all have to be flexible in the way we go about getting to the finish line.”
Parks Help People Heal
For Brad Buzard, general manager of Shade Systems, Inc., and donor to the PBC project, it was essential to do what they could, particularly during these times. “We are a long-standing NRPA member and wanted to do our part to beautify a worthy park location, especially since it is in Florida, our home state,” says Buzard. “And with the current COVID-19 crisis, we feel it is more important than ever to invest in our public parks, which offer fresh air and room to roam and engage in healthful activities for people who have been cooped up.”
“Parks are so important to our society. They bring communities and families together to enjoy recreational activities and events; they are amazing places to see and learn more about nature and wildlife; and they promote healthy lifestyles [through] playgrounds, sports fields, walking paths and hiking trails,” says Kara Oughton, marketing manager of Gared.
NRPA and its partners continue to move forward on the Grand Avenue Park project so that one day the community may enjoy all that this park has to offer. Stephanie Devine, vice president of marketing and brand strategy, UltraSite, captures it best: “[D]uring this trying time in our nation, now, more than ever, we need to come together in support of our parks and [the people] who love them. [We] believe in celebrating community, celebrating parks, and celebrating a project to better the world around us.”
For more information about the 2020 Parks Build Community project and how you can be involved, contact Gina Mullins-Cohen, NRPA’s vice president of communications and chief marketing officer.
The 2020 Parks Build Community Donors Include:
- BCI Burke Company
- Greenfields Outdoor Fitness
- Musco Lighting
- Playground Grass by ForeverLawn
- Epic Outdoor Cinema
- DuMor Site Furnishings
- Gared Sports
- Most Dependable Fountains, Inc.
- Freenotes Harmony Park
- Shade Systems, Inc.
- Ultra Site
Paula M. Jacoby-Garrett is a Freelance Writer based in Las Vegas, Nevada.