Panama City officials working to build back parks better than before

Published: Aug. 5, 2022 at 6:48 PM CDT
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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Panhandle residents all know rebuilding after a catastrophic storm takes time. Nearly four years after being hit hard by Hurricane Michael, Panama City leaders are working on bringing some area parks back to life.

For mom Ashley Erickson, taking her little girl, Emerald, out to play at the park is the highlight of her day.

“As you can see she’s playing over here with her friend Malakai. Just having a great day, trying to get the kids in a safe environment, a gated environment. Just getting everyone out,” Erickson said.

Options have been slim these past few years after the category five storm made its mark, tearing through most Panama City parks and recreational centers. But city officials are working to build back and better than before. They’re starting with Sudduth Park.

“We’re bringing back the field that was there prior to Hurricane Michael. We’re going to be adding a brand new playground, equipment, additional parking both vehicle parking and golf cart parking,” Sean DePalma, Quality of Life Director for the city of Panama City, said.

Over on the east end, plans are wrapping up for both Daffin and Joe Moody parks.

“We’re in the process of working with our architects and engineers,” DePalma said. “We’re about 90% completed with plans on both of those projects and they’re moving along very efficiently.”

City officials said they’re also looking at the next step for Bay Memorial Park. They’re planning to set up a community meeting in November to hear what residents would want to see in the rebuild.

And the moment so many have been waiting for, the Martin Luther King Jr. Rec Center is set to be demolished on Monday, August 8th. It will make room for a brand new state-of-the-art facility.

“New playgrounds, new playground equipment, outdoor basketball, a multipurpose field. It’s going to have so many amenities,” DePalma said. “It’s really going to become the hub of the city when it’s completed.”

It will be a family-friendly hub to play in a safe, fun area, where kids can be kids.

“We definitely need them. There’s a lot of bars and whatnot, things that are not relevant to kids of course so the best thing for kids is to come out here and play,” Erickson said.

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