Leave Jaycee Park a ‘green space’ park
To the editor:
We have a jewel in our city — Jaycee Park, a relatively small park uniquely situated on the shoreline of the Caloosahatchee. It is the place where hundreds of people come daily and weekly to refresh and revive in a quiet, peaceful atmosphere to exercise and relax, to meet and share ideas, meals, family gatherings, to walk in the shade, to sit beside the river under the trees and watch dolphins and shorebirds, owls and butterflies.
It is a green space passive park in the style Frederick Olmstead (architect of Washington D.C. Capitol grounds and N.Y.Central Park, et al) designed ensuring that “the body of the people” would have access to natural beauty. He believed parks were “the lungs of the city” offering spaces that could foster physical and mental well-being. Growing evidence suggests that green spaces can boost the immune system, lengthen life expectancy, lower levels of stress, reduce depression and anxiety, reduce cortisol levels and improve general well-being. The CDC says parks can provide environmental benefits by reducing air and water pollution, protecting areas from inappropriate development and mitigating urban heat islands .(cdc.gov>parks-recreation)
And, we have it here! We have an area along the river for walking and running. Australian pines (planted to control erosion, provide shade and protection from storm winds and restore nitrogen to the soil ) supply shade for the walkers through much of the day and keep the asphalt cooler for the dogs. The asphalt makes for a better walking/running surface since it is softer and easier on the body than running on concrete. Aside from runners or walkers, you can find the park being used by birdwatchers, children, cyclists, crafters, dancers, fishermen, fitness enthusiasts, meditators, photographers, picnickers, readers, yoga practitioners and others all in this beautiful, natural environment.
We can certainly make improvements –shading for the playground and swings, a splash pad for the children with appropriate covered seating for supervising adults, more parking facing the river (so people can easily get to benches and picnic tables), additional head-on parking along Southeast 20th Place if necessary, the addition of more shade trees to provide a canopy over the paths, plantings to surround the north field to make it a tropical meadow with native plants, flowers and trees on the perimeter using memorial benches for seating, adjustment of the traffic pattern by adding driveways on the north and south ends of the park for egress and safety.
All this for a cost far less than that of the current proposal. Let’s vote to keep Jaycee Park’s status as a passive park, a natural environment. There are more than 200 restaurants and a soon-to-be completed food truck piazza at Bernice Braden Park just five minutes away for those wanting a more commercial setting. A band shell can be created at a different location with its own designated parking, restroom facilities and other amenities, making it a destination in its own right.