City Celebrates Parks and Recreation Day

by SC Reporter Wendy McMullen

Mayor Richard Johnson last week read a long list of reasons to celebrate Parks and Recreation Month at the city council meeting.

One reason mentioned by the mayor to celebrate the City of Sanibel’s Recreation Center was the highly successful Fourth of July party, hailed by some party-goers as one of the best community events ever. Rec Center staff worked for weeks and gave up their July 4 holiday to organize the first Independence Day Community Party in the newly revitalized center.

Recreation Services Assistant Heike Goxelin, Program Supervisor Dave DeFonzo, Building Maintenance Billy Holder, Recreation Aide Ella DeFonzo, Program Coordinator’s Gabrielle Angels-Cooper and Connor Russell and Building Maintenance Chris Mendel

Rec staff organized pool games, a balloon room, face painting, games in the pool and gym, and joined with community organizations and businesses to provide arts and crafts, a petting zoo, a stilt magician and a live band. Pizza was donated by Island Pizza and hot dogs by Doc Fords. Rec staff provided popcorn, ice cream and cotton candy and the center hummed with activity.

“You anticipated 250 people and you had 635. Wow! And you were afraid you wouldn’t have anybody come,” Mayor Richard Johnson commented to Recreation Director Andrea Miller.

“I just am so pleased that this recreation department and our recreation center is what it is today, what it needs to be what it should be, and I’m really looking forward to how much stronger it’s going to be in the future,” city council member Holly Smith said.

Revitalization of the rec center had been planned long before Hurricane Ian hit. Consultants Berry Dunn McNeil & Parker, were hired to come up with a plan to generate new membership and design programs to attract residents and visitors.

Residents were polled and committees organized to provide input, and the plan, dubbed Recreation Reimagined, was passed by Sanibel City Council in spring of this year.

Among the many benefits of parks and recreation included in the mayor’s proclamation are promoting well being, increasing cognitive performance, alleviating depression and Alzheimers, providing out of school activities and healthy meals, providing space for popular sports such as hiking trails and swimming pools, and other activities designed to promote an active lifestyle, attract tourism, and boost the economy.

“Everything in the proclamation is exactly true,” commented the mayor speaking of the new re-energized Sanibel Rec Center, which is subsidized by the city.

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