This summer, 11 parks throughout Northwest Jacksonville neighborhoods and the city’s urban core will offer supervised activities for local youth through a new urban parks initiative called “Rec N’ Roll Jax”.
The Jacksonville law firm of Pajcic & Pajcic donated $50,000 to fund the program as a pilot project that will employ “old school” practices to keep youth engaged in healthy activities and out of trouble during their school vacation.
“This is a smart investment in our kids, a smart investment in our neighborhoods, and a smart investment in crime prevention and public safety,” Mayor Brown said. “Thanks to Steve Pajcic and his firm’s generous donation, 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.”
Edward Waters College President Nathaniel Glover, City Council Members Reggie Brown, Dr. Johnny Gaffney and Jim Love, and JaxParks Interim Director Daryl Joseph joined Mayor Brown and Pajcic to announce the program at Woodstock Park on Monday, June 2.
“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,” 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.”
Woodstock is one of three parks inside the boundary of an area recently identified by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office for its Operation Ceasefire program, where law enforcement professionals are enhancing their presence in an effort to stop gun-related crime.
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 using data from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office to identify where the initiative would have the most impact.
“Rec ‘N Roll Jax” will be offered Monday, June 23 through Friday, Aug. 15. The initiative will be supported by two retired Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department ambulances, which will be tagged by local artists and converted into mobile recreation vehicles to transport staff and equipment from park to park.
The Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department is hiring nine temporary outdoor recreation leaders for the eightweek 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 through the Mayor’s Summer Jobs Program.