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Panama City officials are working to rebuild parks better than before

PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) – Residents of the Panhandle all know that rebuilding after a catastrophic storm takes time. Nearly four years after being hit hard by Hurricane Michael, Panama City leaders are working to bring some of the area’s parks back to life.

For mom Ashley Erickson, taking her baby girl, Emerald, to play in the park is the highlight of her day.

“As you can see, she plays here with her friend Malakai. Just have a good day, try to bring the kids to a safe, closed environment. I just get everybody out,” Erickson said.

Options have been slim in recent years after the category five storm made its mark, tearing through most parks and recreation centers in Panama City. But city officials are working to rebuild and better than before. They start with Sudduth Park.

“We’re bringing back the field that was there before Hurricane Michael. We will be adding a brand new playground, amenities, additional parking for vehicles and golf carts,” said Sean DePalma, Quality of Life Manager for Panama City.

At the east end, plans end for Daffin and Joe Moody parks.

“We are working with our architects and engineers,” DePalma said. “We are about 90% complete with the plans for these two projects and they are moving forward very efficiently.”

City officials said they are also considering the next step for Bay Memorial Park. They plan to hold a community meeting in November to hear what residents would like to see in the rebuilding.

And the long-awaited moment, the Martin Luther King Jr. Rec Center is set to be torn down on Monday, August 8. It will make way for a brand new state-of-the-art facility.

“New playgrounds, new playground equipment, outdoor basketball, a multipurpose court. There will be so many amenities,” DePalma said. “It’s really going to become the center of the city when it’s finished.”

It will be a family center for play in a safe and fun space, where children can be children.

“We definitely need them. There are a lot of bars and so on, things that are irrelevant for kids of course, so the best thing for kids is to come and play here,” Erickson said.

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