The Palm Beach County Parks Department was created in 1951 as a department under the direction of the County Engineers Office. By 1965, the department was managing twelve parks and included a work force of sixty-nine employees. Reorganization in 1972 led to the separation of Parks and Engineering and so the Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation Department was born. The department steadily expanded during the late 1960s and 1970s. During the 1980s and 1990s, responding to Palm Beach County’s exploding population growth and its equally exploding demand for leisure services, aggressive expansion efforts were accomplished. Today, The Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation Department is recognized nationally for excellence in park and recreation management, operates more than 110 parks and recreational facilities, spanning more than 8,500 acres, and provides organized recreational programs and services for people of all ages and abilities.
Join us in celebrating our 50th Anniversary milestone as the Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation Department. Connect with us on social media and be on the lookout for upcoming publications and events highlighting the history of your county park system.
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The Orange Bowl Committee and Palm Beach County broke ground yesterday, December 14, on Phase II of Orange Bowl Field at Glades Pioneer Park in Belle Glade.
Phase I was completed in December 2019 and included a synthetic turf field and maintenance, an electronic scoreboard, an entry monument, fencing, walkways and signage. Phase II includes construction of a neighborhood center and restroom that will host a variety of educational, wellness and civic uses.
The park serves as the playing site for several teams from the Glades Youth Football League, which is a current member of the Orange Bowl Youth Football Alliance (OBYFA). In addition, many current and former NFL players from the area have used the field to conduct youth football camps.
“The continued renovation of Glades Pioneer Park furthers the county’s commitment to youth enrichment and sports and athletic programming and facilities,” said Commissioner Melissa McKinlay.
The Orange Bowl Committee selected Glades Pioneer Park as a recipient of a $1.5 million matching Legacy Grant for the design, permitting and construction of the Orange Bowl Field and other related amenities. The amount was matched by the Board of County Commissioners providing a total of $3 million toward the renovation project. An additional $400,000 in grant funding was received from the Quantum Foundation and the NFL Foundation to assist with the second phase of the project. “The Orange Bowl Committee is extremely proud to begin Phase II of Orange Bowl Field at Glades Pioneer Park, as part of our 5th Legacy Park Project across South Florida and 1st in Palm Beach County,” said Orange Bowl Committee President & Chair Jack Seiler. “We are happy to complete our 1st Palm Beach County park and further our legacy of building and serving community in South Florida with a fantastic new facility for all ages to enjoy. The mission of the Orange Bowl Committee since its inception in 1935 is to inspire youth, engage our community, and enhance South Florida. This building will accomplish that and much more for years to come.”
Phase II improvements will cost approximately $1.9 million and is expected to be completed in June 2022. Future plans include a new destination playground, picnic pavilion, grand entry plaza and a vehicle drop off area near the neighborhood center.
Bo Preston, PGA General Manager at Osprey Point Golf Course and Bridget Ackley, onsite PGA Teaching Professional with Don Law Golf Academy (DLGA), were recognized by the South Florida Professional Golfers’ Association (SFPGA) during an awards presentation held at the golf course on Thursday, December 2.
Bo Preston was honored with the Patriot Award and is only the third recipient to have received it. The Patriot Award recognizes a PGA member who personifies patriotism through the game of golf and demonstrates unwavering commitment and dedication to all who have served the United States.
“I am humbled and honored to be the recipient of the award,” said Preston. “Giving back to our veterans is my way of saying ‘Thank you’ for all they have done for me. They all deserve my best and that is what I hope I give them.”
For the past 12 years, Preston’s facilities have participated in the annual Patriot Golf Days in addition to hosting Folds of Honor tournaments. A certified instructor of Adaptive Golf and the PGA HOPE program, Preston has been personally changed by these programs and will continue to provide events like these for years to come.
“This certification has had a major impact on me,” said Preston. “It changes you. I have a whole new insight, respect and appreciation for our veterans.”
When Preston arrived at Osprey Point, there were no programs running for veterans. He immediately put PGA HOPE on their calendar and, over these past few years, has worked to grow the program to what it is today. Their first program of the year brought in 16 veterans and generated a segment on local media PGA HOPE. Preston’s programs have already impacted more than 150 veterans and Preston and his team are committed to providing an exceptional experience for these veterans starting at the first moment they step on to the course.
Bridget Ackley has been named the South Florida PGA Youth Development Award winner. The award recognizes the PGA Professional who uses her leadership skills to promote and develop junior golf at both the club and community levels. “When I received the phone call that I won the Section’s Youth Player Development Award, I was truly overcome with emotion,” said Ackley. “Winning this award has been a career achievement goal of mine and it means so much that my efforts to grow the game at the junior level have not gone unnoticed by my peers. There are long and sometimes challenging days that I persevere through in order to provide the juniors with the best experience that I possibly can.”
Throughout Ackley’s time working in junior golf she has been able to develop leadership skills that have helped better translate into positive feedback from her students. Being able to create a comfortable environment for juniors has allowed for better communication and understanding of the game. As a Youth Player Development programmer, Ackley has been successful in spreading passion and enthusiasm for the game of golf to the younger generations.
“The main passion of my career has been to advance positive youth development by using golf skills that transition into various life skills to create successful young adults. Juniors deserve the opportunity to simply enjoy being kids, in a creative golfing environment, to promote lasting positive outcomes.”
While working predominantly with ages 2-12, Ackley also coaches high school golf at Saint John Paul II Academy in Boca Raton, where she has the opportunity to help young men and women not only grow in the game of golf but as individuals as well.
“I want to thank my family for fully supporting my dreams to foster youth development, DLGA for providing a space for me to develop my art of junior programming, and my fellow Professionals for acknowledging the work that I offer to the juniors in the community. I am honored to receive this award.”
“Our Department is very fortunate to have two outstanding people working for us who care deeply about growing the game of golf and creating opportunities for everyone to participate,” said Eric Call, Director of Parks and Recreation. “Congratulations to both Bo and Bridget for this significant recognition from the SFPGA.”
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The Florida Sports Foundation, which is the official sports promotion and development organization for the State of Florida, recognized one of Palm Beach County’s premier parks during the annual Florida Sports Summit. The Florida Sports Foundation presented its annual awards to recognize Florida communities and sports commissions for their efforts to cultivate sports tourism in Florida. The awards were presented at the annual Florida Sports Summit, which was held November 8-10.
Okeeheelee Park, which is a Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation venue, has been named the 2021 “Large Market Venue of the Year” by the Florida Sports Foundation. This award is presented annually to Florida’s small, mid, and large market venues that excel in fostering sports development while creating tourism impacts within the state.
Okeeheelee Park is one of the largest parks in south Florida, which covers over 1700 acres. Okeeheelee Park is a catch-all for traditional and action sports. One of the most versatile venues in Palm Beach County, Okeeheelee Park includes eight tennis courts, six pickleball courts, five lighted youth baseball diamonds, four lighted softball diamonds, and four lighted multi-purpose fields that are ideal for soccer, lacrosse, football, rugby, and more. Okeeheelee Park not only contains a 27-hole public championship golf course; it is also one of the few venues in the region with an 18-hole course for disc golf. Five expansive water-skiing lakes allow for professional water-skiing competitions. One of the nation’s premier cable wakeboarding facilities, Shark Wave Park, also resides within Okeeheelee Park. The site also features a premier equestrian venue in the Jim Brandon Equestrian Center and the top-ranked BMX track in Florida, Okeeheelee BMX.
Okeeheelee Park was a launching pad for sports tourism recovery in The Palm Beaches. The Palm Beach County Sports Commission and Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation partnered to host a diverse collection of sports events at Okeeheelee Park over the past year. The first youth sports tournament to take place in Palm Beach County, during a post-Covid-19 era, happened at Okeeheelee Park through baseball. During the year, a variety of youth baseball events, girls fastpitch softball tournaments, soccer showcases, and tennis contests filled the venue while providing an economic and tourism benefit to The Palm Beaches. Okeeheelee Park was also home to a national BMX event in addition to professional and amateur water ski events. The Jim Brandon Equestrian Center hosted national equestrian showjumping events and provided a stage for the Kids Fitness Festival of the Palm Beaches, which introduces Palm Beach County’s youth to a variety of sports.
“The Palm Beach County Sports Commission and Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation have an incredible partnership, which sparked a sports tourism recovery in The Palm Beaches,” said George Linley, Executive Director of the Palm Beach County Sports Commission. “Okeeheelee Park is one of Florida’s most comprehensive and resourceful venues with a sprawling footprint that is a setting for a multitude of sports. Together, the Palm Beach County Sports Commission and Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation utilized Okeeheelee Park to deliver sports tourism products over the past year. We are extremely grateful to the Florida Sports Foundation for recognizing Okeeheelee Park as Florida’s Large Market Venue of the Year.”
“I am very honored that Okeeheelee Park was selected as Sports Venue of the Year by the Florida Sports Foundation,” said Eric Call, Director, Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation Department. “The park was master-planned in the ’70s-’80s as Palm Beach County’s central park and designed to offer recreation and sports opportunities for both amateur and professional athletes. We’re very proud of the relationship we have established with the Palm Beach County Sports Commission and look forward to collaborating on many more events at Okeeheelee Park in the future.”
PBC Parks participated in the national Parks for Pollinators campaign, which was aimed at raising public awareness of the importance of pollinators and positioning parks as national leaders in advancing pollinator health. Organized by the National Recreation and Parks Association (NRPA), the Parks for Pollinators BioBlitz event was held during the month of September.
We created a project – named Parks for Pollinators 2021: Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation – in the iNaturalist app, which was shared with NRPA and added to the national campaign. Participants used the iNaturalist app and website to record and identify observations of various plant and animal pollinators found in parks, natural areas, backyards, and other locations throughout the county.
The PBC Parks project recorded about 1,500 observations with more than 500 species identified. More than 200 identifiers and nearly 250 observers participated using the iNaturalist app.
“I really enjoyed looking for as many pollinators as possible in the one-month span. I know I definitely won’t stop looking for them any time soon!” said Mikie Green, PBC Parks Volunteer.
Mikie was recognized with observing the most species in the county during the event on iNaturalist (username coolcrittersyt), with over 80 species of pollinators.
Parks play a key role in protecting and preserving pollinators and their habitats, and BioBlitz events are designed to create a literal snapshot of plants, insects and animals to see what wildlife is present in local parks. The activity not only let participants safely explore their local parks and learn more about the species through the iNaturalist mobile app, the information gathered also provided specific data on the species located in the parks — which can help park and recreation professionals manage those spaces for biological diversity and build ecological resilience.
In addition to featuring the project on PBCParks.com, BioBlitz activities were conducted at events, like the “Palm Beach County Library System Park(ing) Day”, in order to provide the community with more ways to understand the importance of pollinators and their impact on the environment.
Join the Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation Department and the Palm Beach County Library System at Okeeheelee Nature Center as they introduce you to pollinators and read poems by Emily Dickinson through a virtual walk & talk.