During COVID-19 park closures, dedicated Ocean Rescue staff continue to perform their critical work. The following quote is from PBC Ocean Rescue Lifeguard Erik Pointer to Ocean Rescue Chief Julia Leo.
“Chief Leo, Just wanted to say that while working this week enforcing beach closures, I have observed many people outside of our guarded areas and some inside attempting to enter the ocean water. Relying on 25 years of marine safety, ocean rescue, and personnel management, I believe that no matter what happens in our future, people, young and old, will continue in their pursuit to be outdoors and enter the ocean. Based on my experience, we cannot leave these park beaches and communities here to fend for themselves in the ocean nor can we place that necessary responsibility on our Firefighters and/or Policemen & women. During my duties, I was able to observe a large area of coastline and make contact with a lot of these patrons and using good social distancing, I was able to educate them on the new guidelines of beach closure and risks of entering the ocean alone without a lifeguard on duty. We are the only ones out there for 10 hours per day that have the necessary advanced training in the unparalleled and high risk environment of ocean rescue and marine safety.”
Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation Public Service Professionals are helping to fill much-needed roles across the county during this challenging time of general park closures. Many staff members have ventured away from their typical park-related roles in order to assist where critically needed. Here are just some of the ways staff has been assisting through various emergency and community roles:
• Staff has been deployed through the EDRP to the Emergency Operations Center (EOC), including Ocean Rescue EMTs who have been screening people entering the EOC per CDC guidelines
• Recreation Programs Supervisor Cliff Battles is also at the EOC and is adeptly handling many Logistics Section and municipal mission/resource requests
• Public Relations Specialist Bibi Baksh was activated to the EOC in the Public Information Unit and helped pull together the 4:00 P.M. press conference
• Several designated EOA members from throughout the Department have also been activated to help set-up the COVID-19 Drive-through Testing Site at Fit Team Ballpark of the Palm Beaches with the multiple partner agencies; the department’s sign shop is busy producing signs critical to this effort
• Several forklift drivers are assisting at the Countywide Staging Area (CSA) at the fairgrounds, where supplies from the State are coming in, being sorted and distributed to a prioritized list including hospitals, assisted living facilities, nursing homes, etc…
These roles are in addition to the thousands of less visible but critical ways staff makes a difference through answering questions, educating the public, securing parks, sharing social media experiences to provide for a moment of stress relief or to inform, maintaining natural habitats, and more.
During these unprecedented times, Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation Department staff continue to work in various roles to serve the community. Here are just two visible examples of the amazing work that PBC Parks and Recreation professionals are up to during this challenging time of general park closure to public park use.
A mobile shower unit in partnership with non-profit “Shower the People“ is visiting the John Prince Park homeless encampment twice a week starting Saturday, March 28 to help people in need with preventative hygiene needs. Additional hand washing stations were also installed. The Park Operations, Park Rangers, Trades, JPP Maintenance Team, Special Facilities Special Events Section, and Administration teams collaborated to make this happen in short order.
Our animal ambassadors continue to need care and Daggerwing Nature Center staff brought environmental education into homes of students and adults alike: great work, Sean, Lila, and Daggerwing staff! You can view daily feeding videos of the nature center’s animals on their Facebook page.