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Jacksonville, FL (December 10, 2022) – As the city continues to upgrade and enhance the parks system within District 11, Council Member Danny Becton is providing this update on various COJ Parks and Recreation projects. The update includes progress on the new Fort Family Baseball fields, the future development of the recently acquired park property on AC Skinner Parkway, improvements at Julington-Durbin Creek Preserve, and a change in park management and new equipment for Greenland Park.  Funding for many of these improvements was secured through this year’s budget bill 2022-505-E within the city’s Capital Improvement Project, in addition to various other pieces of legislation both introduced by the administration and Council Member Becton.  With emphasis on improving the quality of life for the community and fulfilling recreational needs for our residents, these initiatives have been a top priority for Council Member Becton throughout his service on City Council. Once again, he has delivered on that promise.

Fort Family Baseball Fields:

Council Member Becton was advised by Parks and Recreation Director Daryl Joseph that progress on the new baseball complex was coming along on schedule.  Originally planned to be a quadplex, the revised plan drops one field due to space limitations but enhances the remaining three fields in their size and scope.  In a previous article, Council Member Becton stated, “Fort Family Park is now on its final phase towards a path of completion for the many amenities that were envisioned when the park property was first purchased many years ago.” He continued, “upon taking office, this park became a high priority for me, and with that emphasis we now have one of the best tennis facilities within the city, inclusive of the first city-owned pickleball courts. We have a naming rights sponsorship agreement with Fort Family Properties that is contributing $1 million dollars over ten years towards various capital improvements within the park that will certainly enhance what is already a great city owned facility.” 

The baseball fields will be state of the art including artificial turf surfaces within both infield and outfield. This facility will be managed by an organization, Walk Off Charities, founded by sports commentator and analyst, Frank Frangie. Walk Off Charities is an excellent organization that provides opportunities for all youth to learn and play baseball, striving to offer additional opportunities for development, experience, and exposure as kids mature into adulthood. It is their hope that through baseball, they can teach youth many life lessons and skills to prepare them for life’s many challenges.  Walk Off Charities will be vested in the facilities and help take great care in the fields’ upkeep. Through partnerships with the City of Jacksonville, corporate, and private donations Walk Off Charities has been able to invest over $300,000 in field renovations or facility upgrades within Jacksonville. Walk Off Charities will provide the management of the baseball park for its use and scheduling of events, in addition to having those responsibilities for the two flex fields as well.

Along with the new baseball fields, one of the flex-fields is also getting a total reconstruction turning it from grass to an artificial turf surface. This upgrade is being done simultaneously with the baseball fields, with both projects to be completed and a “ribbon cutting” taking place towards the end of February or first of March, at the latest.

Other projects within the Fort Family Park include extending the walking trail to completely encompass the entire park, a boat ramp for small crafts, and a new rest room facility with a concession stand located between the playground and baseball fields. In addition to these improvements, Council Member Becton was given the exciting news regarding the purchase of new playground equipment. This equipment is on-order, and we are looking forward to seeing an installation date for Spring of 2023. Future ideas for in and around the walking trail include a dock and a fishing platform built into the lake, allowing for more recreational opportunities for the lake activation to entertain park visitors.  Also in the works for these areas are a splash pad adjacent to the playground for younger kids.

AC Skinner Parkway Park

Scheduled to begin in Summer 2023 from a $1 million donation negotiated by Council Member Becton as part of a land donation deal through the Development Agreement bill 2021-497-E, the Parks & Recreation department will begin final site planning and design work leading to the construction drawings for this future 15.24-acre active park. The proposed concept plan for this park looks at having at least three large multi-flex fields for team sports, such as football and soccer. Other venues within propose large open areas for other activities, playground areas, pavilions with grills and restrooms, nature walking trails, sand volleyball, basketball or pickleball courts, and a large water body with a central flowing stream that runs through the property for all to enjoy. This future asset was an important part of Council Member Becton’s vision of providing for the growth management in this part of the district to protect the quality of life of this high-density residential area.

Julington-Durbin Preserve

Through funding from a $1.215 million appropriation bill 2022-687-E, the Julington-Durbin Preserve received $500,000 to be used to build restrooms and to make trailhead parking lot improvements within the park that Council Member Becton had been working on for several years.  The restrooms improvements are in the permitting phase of the project, as the parking lot is wrapping up, with the remainder of the project projected to begin in the first Quarter of 2023.

Greenland Park

For Greenland Park, the City of Jacksonville has taken over the management of the park. All activities and events should now be requested from the Parks and Recreation directly. For enhancements, the park is receiving new playground equipment which is expected to be delivered and installed in late Spring of 2023.

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By Joe Johnson, District 11 Executive Council Assistant and CM Danny Becton.