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 Department staff are constantly springing into action – on March 30, staff helped set up the COVID-19 testing site located at FitTeam Ballpark of the Palm Beaches. Staff helped with this tremendous effort by filling sandbags, positioning generators, making and delivering signage, among other tasks!
“We say it all year long – parks save lives – thank for stepping up again in our community’s time of need to make a difference.” -Jennifer Cirillo, pbcParks Assistant Director
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.
Did you know that Coontie is part of a classification of plants that’s been around for millions of years? Watch this short video to learn about some unique facts about these interesting plants, including how they’re beneficial by both humans and animals!
Okeeheelee Park is a massive and very popular regional park located West of West Palm Beach. Whether you’re looking for adventure on the water, relaxation on a nature trail, or unique opportunities to stay active, this park has something for everyone!
Lorraine DiFrancisco has been a volunteer at Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens for the past four years. She serves as a general volunteer and is currently a docent-in-training at the facility.
According to DiFrancisco, being in the docent program with her fellow docents means she can give tours to school groups, clubs, and organizations. She has also been a greeter at the Yamato-kan and main museum, as well as a volunteer at annual festivals, like Oshogatsu and the Lantern Festival.
DiFrancisco’s favorite thing about volunteering at the Morikami is that it allows her “to meet and interact with people from all over the world,” she said. She loves sharing the things she has learned with others so that they can better understand and appreciate all that the Morikami has to offer.
Raptor Day for Photographers was held at Okeeheelee Nature Center (ONC) on January 18, 2020. Sponsored by Friends of Okeeheelee Nature Center, this annual event provided 50 photographers with an opportunity to take close-up portraits of birds of prey. This year, ONC partnered with the Treasure Coast Wildlife Center (TCWC) to ensure a diversity of species for the participants to photograph. The birds displayed included two species of hawk, three species of owl, a kestrel, and a crested caracara. The birds are placed on outdoor perches so the photographers can capture images of the animals in natural light and in front of wooded backgrounds.
All of the raptors live at educational facilities under human care because they have an injury that prevents them from returning to the wild. Although many of the birds have visible imperfections, the talented photographers were able to bring out their best features and highlight their natural beauty.
ONC staff and volunteers were present throughout the event to provide information about the birds and answer questions. Participants were also given a brochure that included facts about the raptors and explained a little about each bird’s history.
Feedback from the participants was tremendously positive. Irwin Goldzweig wrote to share some of his beautiful photos and say, “Thanks to you, Heather, and your staff and volunteers. My wife and I thoroughly enjoyed Raptor Day. It was professionally organized and implemented which made it totally enjoyable for us as visitors. The staff and volunteers were wonderful, informative, and very helpful. We look forward to the next one.”
Friends of Okeeheelee Nature Center sold out the event within two weeks, raising over $1,200. All proceeds benefit the programs, exhibits and animals at Okeeheelee Nature Center.
A farm to table experience is coming to The Nest Eatery at Osprey Point Golf Course in Burt Aaronson South County Regional Park! Palm Beach County and Osprey Point Golf Course have dedicated a portion of land at the golf course to create an organic garden which all will be used at the restaurant. Going a step further, they are creating a composting initiative that all food waste will be composted and used to fertilize the garden for future vegetables.
Carole Rapport has been a volunteer at Daggerwing Nature Center for over seven years. She serves as the volunteer gift shop manager and is also the treasurer for Friends of Daggerwing Nature Center. Her involvement with the site ranges from the gift shop to volunteer management as well as working with the animals.
Carole started in 2012 working in the butterfly garden and evolved to share her talents in various ways, especially with the Friends of Daggerwing Nature Center. “Carole is a brilliant person with great skills that are valuable to any organization – she is organized, professional, and one of the best friends I know,” said Sean Mallee, Daggerwing Nature Center Manager.
According to Carole, her favorite thing about volunteering at Daggerwing Nature Center, “is all the friendships I’ve made here… all the volunteers come from such diverse backgrounds and experiences but we are friends because our our common goals.”