Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Schools Seen as Solution to Park Space Shortage; A County Commissioner Is Proposing a Pilot Project to Boost Recreation

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Schools Seen as Solution to Park Space Shortage; A County Commissioner Is Proposing a Pilot Project to Boost Recreation

Article excerpt

Byline: BETH REESE CRAVEY

County Commissioner Patrick McGovern did the math and was displeased with the result.

Clay County has a population of 171,095 and counting, but just 19 neighborhood parks and nine community parks.

Eight of the nine community parks are leased to athletic associations and are not always accessible to everyone else.

And even when the county has funds to buy additional parklands, finding space that is both available and affordable can be difficult.

"Not every kid belongs to an athletic association," said McGovern. "Parks are not where the people are. They are not in the most heavily urbanized areas of the county. ... We have money for parks, but can't find parkland. We have fabulous parks in Keystone, but that's not where the people are."

So McGovern came up with a simple way to boost the county's parks inventory.

He has proposed using existing public property - school campuses - to boost recreational opportunities in heavily populated areas. He has proposed Clay County purchase new playground equipment for certain schools, starting with a pilot project at one of four elementary schools in the northern part of the county: Doctors Inlet, Ridgeview, W. Bryan Jennings or W.E. Cherry.

The playgrounds likely would be open to the public after school hours and on weekends.

"We just need a place to put equipment, to get kids off the street," McGovern said.

How much equipment would be installed and how much it would cost is still to be determined. And the school district would have to "set the rules" for use of its property.

"This is new ground," McGovern said.

But he said the county would be "investing a significant amount of money."

"We would put it in, we would maintain it, in an effort to provide good, safe equipment for kids to play on after school," he said. "The School Board would decide which one, the school would pick the equipment. …

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