Summer is officially here, which means the days are longer, the nights are shorter, and even though the southern heat of Florida makes many people want to retreat to the indoors, there is something special about spending time in the great outdoors that makes the summer months memorable. Parks are at the center of so many experiences and memories – moments that park and recreation professionals help make happen. During Recreation and Park Month, the City of Ocala, along with the National Recreation and Parks Association (NRPA) encourages residents and visitors within the city to showcase how recreation and parks staff help faithfully serve their communities all year long.
The City of Ocala boasts an impressive 43 parks throughout the city limits: everything from pocket parks tucked away in neighborhoods to large-scale parks in the heart of downtown. Chances are, you’ve enjoyed one of these gems. Not only do our park systems preserve the natural beauty within our cities, but they also provide a backdrop for our memories, opportunities for healthy activities, and help raise our property values and enhance our economic growth.
The theme for this year’s Park and Recreation Month, is “We Rise Up,” and brings attention to how important it is to support recreation and parks because every day these professionals rise up for their communities. The vision of the Ocala Recreation and Parks Department is to provide our community with experiences that captivate and inspire in safe places and spaces. Staff members work hard to provide a variety of programs, activities, and events to meet everyone’s leisure needs.
This month, the Ocala Recreation and Parks Department will welcome a very special staff member. Rex the Squirrel will join the team and provide fun educational opportunities and photo opportunities when out and about in the community. This loveable mascot is the new face of the department and will hopefully encourage young kids, tweens, and adults to become more engaged within our park system. Rex is personally inviting everyone to his July 20 birthday bash at Tuscawilla Park, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. This family-friendly event will include games, face painting, cupcakes, and a chance to meet Rex himself! Stay tuned throughout July when we introduce Rex on his journey to becoming an official City of Ocala employee.
Parks become enjoyable spaces because of the people behind the scenes that make them possible. We often take for granted the hard work it takes to make these parks run daily. City of Ocala Recreation and Parks staff are passionate about their jobs and the services they provide. Staff is constantly creating summer camps, sports classes, educational classes, and craft activities for children, young adults, and our senior population. The recreation and parks team is here to serve the community in every capacity, whether it’s indoor or outdoor activities. They embrace the City’s vision, “To make Ocala a great place to live, play, and prosper.” During July, we encourage everyone to celebrate Parks and Recreation Month and the people who make it something worth celebrating.
Ashley Dobbs is the Marketing and Communications Manager for the City Of Ocala.