[See a photo gallery of the new park below the text.]
More than five years in the works (from the talking stage to construction), Palm Coast’s Waterfront Park on the Intracoastal Waterway opened on Sept. 25.
The $1.9 million park spreads over almost 21 acres along the Intracoastal Waterway. (See a cost breakdown.) It is bounded on the north by properties owned by the Florida Inland Navigation District and the Forest Park gated development, and to the south and west by the Grand Haven gated development. You can reach it by driving south on Colbert Lane, about a mile south of Palm Coast Parkway. The entrance is to the left, just past the entrance to Forest Park—or just past the last entrance to Grand Haven if you’re driving north on Colbert.
The park, the 12th in the city’s greenish repertoire, features three picnic pavilions, a playground, and a fishing pier. It’s also a trailhead to the St. Joe Walkway and Linear Park trail and to the Graham Swamp trail, which is also nearing completion. Saturday’s opening will feature educational booths, including manatee exploration, pollution revolution, and wild waterfront park stations. Anglers will be welcome on the pier.
Bill Butler, the city’s landscape architect, says the park emphasizes native plants—sabal palms, bald cypress, southern red cedar trees, live oaks and the strangely spelled muhly grass , all of which, once established, don’t require watering. “We tried to use all native plantings so that eventually we can reduce or cut back the irrigation that’s established there,” Butler said, “to keep maintenance down and to save water, and we do like a natural looking park. That’s the other reason we wanted to go with natives.”
In 2007, the city’s Leisure Services Advisory Committee conceived of the park as a place for boaters and other outdoors enthusiasts. The park was to include a boating ramp and a marina. “The operation of the marina should be set up as an enterprise fund with fuel and pump out station and as many boat slips as possible,” an advisory committee memo to the city council read in March 2007. “The sale of fuel and boat slip rentals will provide funds to eliminate the necessity of tax payers’ money sustaining the marina over time.” Two months later, some 90 people turned up at the advisory committee’s monthly meeting, mostly to object to a marina. Most were from Grand Haven, a community rich in wealth and voters. The marina idea was dropped.
Waterfront Park is part of several outdoors projects nearing completion in the city. The Graham Swamp Trail and the Easthampton Multi-Use Path are both nearing completion. The first part of the Belle Terre Multi-Use Path construction (grading, concrete and sod work) is 85 percent complete, phase two begins this week, and the council just approved phase three last week. The Rymfire Drive Multi-Use Path, linking Ralph Carter Park to the Lehigh Trail, is half-way through the design phase.
Earlier this summer, the city also opened a Children’s Memorial Garden along the trail from Waterfront Park, just across the wooden bridge that leads to Linear Park. The garden is dedicated to all residents but, as Butler wrote in a city newsletter in June, “especially to those whose children have passed on. It was created to especially encourage families to accept and remember our precious children as they continue with the process of healing. The idea was introduced to the city council and staff by several residents who have lost children and it germinated into a tender tribute.” The garden includes 8-foot benches, bronze plaques and engraved granite, as well as native plants and trees. The garden, Butler continued, “is designed to be a comfortable, peaceful sanctuary for people to contemplate, a public site that will not focus on religion, ethnicity, age or circumstance of death. Nestled in the shade of old oak hammocks, in view of passing boats on the waterway, it will instead soften the sadness of visitors who need a special place to rest, reflect and recall special memories.”
Waterfront Park Photo Gallery