Power of Parks: Colby Zebarth & Greg Norman, Jr.

Welcome to Power of Parks, a podcast produced by the Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation Department, where we share inspiring stories from people who have benefited from nature, parks and recreation.

Episode 13 features Colby Zebarth, a Palm Beach County resident and 14-year-old rider at Shark Wake Park inside Okeeheelee Park. Colby was recently crowned the 2020 Junior Pro World Champion at the World Wake Association Wake Park World Championships just 15 months after starting his wakeboard training at the park.

Also joining the conversation is Greg Norman, Jr. – the owner of Shark Wake Park inside Okeeheelee Park. They offer a variety of adventurous water activities, including cable wakeboarding and kneeboarding, a floating obstacle course, and more.

Animal Encounters: American Alligators

American Alligators, the Florida State Reptile, are common in South Florida — and can even be spotted in some PBC Parks. In this episode of Animal Encounters, Daggerwing Nature Center Manager, Sean Mallee, shares some interesting facts about the American Alligator, including a number of useful adaptations the reptiles have! This episode features Nibbles, an Animal Ambassador at Daggerwing Nature Center.

Park Feature: Dyer Park

Dyer Park is a 560-acre regional park located in West Palm Beach. A former landfill, the park features “The Hill” allowing visitors to walk up and around it, and even bike along it! The park allows visitors to experience a unique green space that is not typically found in the flat South Florida landscape. Watch this video to learn more about opportunities for play at Dyer Park!

Bathouse Bonanza at Daggerwing Nature Center!

Written by Autumn Horne, Asstistant Naturalist, Daggerwing Nature Center

Here at Daggerwing Nature Center, the bat houses are open for business!  Our small homestead is accepting all qualified members of the Order Chiroptera with echolocation in good standing. Chiroptera, which is Greek for “hand wing,” is the order to which all bats belong, and we are excited to have collaborated with fellow hand-wing lovers Shari Blisset-Clark and John Clark of the Florida Bat Conservancy to erect a whole new bat housing development on the Nature Center’s grounds in Burt Aaronson South County Regional Park.  As nocturnal species, native bats spend all day at home, and what a privilege it is to be able to provide our fellow airborne earthlings with a safe roost in which to rest their weary wings. 

But bats aren’t the only beneficiaries of the arrangement, we humans win too!  Bats play an essential role in keeping our ecosystem healthy and functioning, they’re great pest control, seed-dispersers, and pollinators.  Plus bats are the only mammals capable of true flight, and it’s tough to beat an early evening sighting of bat-crobatics.

Here in Florida, we have 13 resident bat species (either found year-round or seasonally), two of which are listed as endangered: the Florida bonneted bat and the gray myotis.  However bats can be found everywhere on the planet except in some extreme deserts, polar regions, and on certain isolated islands.  Our Florida bats are all considered insectivores, and a single little brown bat can eat as many as 1,000 insects in just an hour!  Told you it was a win-win situation.  And after they eat all those bugs, what happens on the other end?  Well, if you can make it past the ick factor, bat poop, also called guano, is some super sensational excrement.  Guano is an amazing fertilizer, has little odor, is fungicidal, and is sometimes even sparkly…move over unicorn poop!

But why become a bat landlord?  Can’t bats find their own houses?  Currently nearly 40% of American bat species are in severe decline, or already listed as threatened or endangered.  According to Bat Conservation International, “…bats are under unprecedented threat from widespread habitat destruction, hunting, accelerated climate change, invasive species, and other stresses. Without concerted international action, their populations will continue to fall, driving many species to extinction.”  And as we know, bats fertilize, bats pollinate, bats disperse seeds, they keep the insect population in check, so by creating safe homes for bats, we are not only helping insure the survival of a fellow creature, but their survival ensures our survival as well!  To quote John Muir, “When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.”

So here’s to all our chiropteran friends, and a huge thank you to Shari and John for the important work they do with Florida Bat Conservancy.  If you’d like to learn more, stop by the nature center and have a chat with a naturalist, or visit floridabats.org.

Power of Parks: Jana Cooper

Welcome to Power of Parks, a podcast produced by the Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation Department, where we share inspiring stories from people who have benefited from nature, parks and recreation.

Episode 12 features Jana Cooper, an avid nature lover who manages the Instagram Page, @walkyourpathfl. On the page, she shares photos from her adventures in and around trails, parks, outdoor gardens, museums, and natural areas in mostly South Florida. In the podcast, she shares her passion for nature and explains why everyone should get out to a trail for their mental and physical wellness.

County and YMCA of the Palm Beaches Partnering to Bring New Facilities, Amenities to Lake Lytal Park

Caption: Left to right — Commissioner Gregg K. Weiss, Eric Call, Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation Department Director, Tim Leuliette, Board President, YMCA of the Palm Beaches and Tim Coffield, President & CEO, YMCA of the Palm Beaches

On Tuesday, January 12, the Palm Beach County (PBC) Board of County Commissioners approved a resolution authorizing the YMCA of the Palm Beaches (YMCA) to lease approximately five acres in Lake Lytal Park for 50 years with one 50-year extension option. 

The Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation Department (PBC Parks) and the YMCA are partnering to bring new facilities, amenities, and improvements to Lake Lytal Park, located at 3645 Gun Club Road in West Palm Beach. PBC Parks is planning to replace the Aquatic Center and relocate it adjacent to the YMCA’s facilities.

The new Aquatic Center inside Lake Lytal Park will include both competition facilities as well as other water-based recreational amenities. Improvements planned by the YMCA include an Olympic-style skate park and training facility, state-of-the-art community center/health and fitness facility, and a child care center.  The design development phase for both the Aquatic Center and the YMCA amenities are expected to commence shortly and last approximately 12 months. The construction of the both the Aquatic Center and the YMCA amenities could commence by late 2021.

The agreement ensures that both PBC Parks and the YMCA construct facilities and infrastructure improvements at their own expense.  The YMCA will be building the Olympic-style skate park and training facility as Phase I, the community center/health and fitness facility as Phase II, and an indoor gymnasium and child care center as Phase III. The YMCA is currently lining up major donors who might want their namesake attached to this essential community center, located along the busiest east-west corridor (Southern Blvd) in Palm Beach County, leaving a legacy for years to come.

“Public-private partnerships between YMCAs and municipal Parks and Recreation Departments are thriving throughout the country. We look forward to this cooperative project at Lake Lytal Park being a shining example of how these types of collaborative relationships can greatly benefit the community,” said Tim Coffield, CEO and President of the YMCA of the Palm Beaches. “We are grateful for the leadership of County staff, the support of our County Commissioners, and we are excited to bring our collective vision to fruition.”

“The possibility to partner with the YMCA of the Palm Beaches to develop and collocate world class recreation facilities at Lake Lytal Park is a distinctive and timely opportunity that will benefit the residents of Palm Beach County for years to come,” said Eric Call, Director, Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation Department.

In addition, within two years of the county’s completion of the aquatic facility inside Lake Lytal Park, the YMCA will handle staffing, programming, and operational management of the facility, which is projected to significantly reduce PBC Parks’ operational expenses.

Volunteer Spotlight: Eddie Ott

Edward “Eddie” Ott has been a volunteer for 11 years at John Prince Golf Learning Center. He picks up golf balls on the range and helps keep the fire ants under control by surveying the property in the hunt for anthills, so they can extinguish them before they cause patrons harm. He also helps keep the golf greens, green aprons (collars) and fairways in tiptop shape by fixing ball markers and filling divots, keeping them as some of the best in South Florida.

Fellow staff, volunteers and patrons have always said that he has been a pleasure to talk to due to his wealth of experiences and knowledge.

Eddie has always been a very diligent working volunteer. He is kind, optimistic and very cordial to all and a role model to the whole facility.

The biggest personal benefit he’s received as a volunteer with our department? “I get to play golf and work with Geoff!”

Eddie started playing golf at the age of 42 and moved down to Florida from Ohio when he was 50. His previous occupation was an auto mechanic. What’s most interesting is he is 97 years old, who calls 85 year olds ‘kids’. 

DuBois PIoneer Home Virtual Tour Fireside Chat: John Alden DuBois

The DuBois Pioneer Home Virtual Tour – Fireside Chat series brings you short stories from relatives and friends of the DuBois family. In this episode, John Alden DuBois, the grandson of Harry and Susan DuBois, share how Harry and the Carlins, another pioneer family, helped tourists visiting the area.