Mayor Alvin Brown announced today an urban parks initiative that will provide supervised activities this summer for youth at 11 parks in Jacksonville neighborhoods affected by an increase in violent crime.
The Jacksonville law firm of Pajcic & Pajcic donated $50,000 to fund the urban parks initiative as a pilot project that will employ “old school” practices to keep kids engaged in healthy activities and out of trouble during their break from school this summer. Attorney Steve Pajcic grew up near Woodstock Park, the site of today’s announcement, and remembers spending his younger days there engaged in sports under the watchful eye of a park supervisor.
See photos from the June 2, 2014 news conference at Woodstock Park
Three of the parks in the initiative, Johnnie Walker, Scott and Woodstock, are inside the boundary of an area recently identified by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office for its Operation Ceasefire program. Police announced they will knock on 18,000 doors in Northwest Jacksonville and enhance their presence in an effort to stop gun-related crime.
“Enforcement is essential after a crime has been committed, but the best way to make the community safer is to prevent crime in the first place,” Mayor Brown said. “As a result of this generous donation by Steve Pajcic and the Pajcic & Pajcic law firm, we’re providing kids with a safe place to be this summer as well as an opportunity to participate in healthy, productive and fun activities. If kids are doing that, they’re staying out of trouble.”
The Urban Parks Initiative is called “Rec ‘N Roll Jax.” Parks participating in the pilot project are: Carvill, Clark, Grunthal, Julius Guinyard, Panama, Pine Forest, Scott, Tallulah, Johnnie Walker, Willowbranch and Woodstock. Pajcic worked with the city to identify parks for the initiative.
“Rec ‘N Roll Jax” starts Monday, June 23, and runs through Friday, August 15. A feature of the initiative will be the use of two retired Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department ambulances. The ambulances will be converted into mobile recreation vehicles to transport staff and recreation equipment to four of the parks that will be staffed a half day each weekday. The other seven parks will be staffed full time on weekdays.
“Woodstock Park was almost a second home for Gary and me, and lots of other ‘park rats’ in our neighborhood. And every neighborhood in the old city of Jacksonville had a park and a park director so that children had a safe place to hang out, have fun and grow up,” Steve Pajcic said, referring to his late brother. “All the old core neighborhoods in Jacksonville still have parks, but no park directors – so the assets are underutilized and our children less safe. I hope this is a first step in a return to our old way of honoring and protecting our children.”
The Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department is hiring nine temporary outdoor recreation leaders for the eight-week program. In addition to supervising park activities, each rec leader will referee games, mentor youth seeking adult advice and supervise teens assigned to the parks for their summer job assignments.