The wishes of Port St. Lucie residents are coming true.
The city’s Parks and Recreation Department is developing the often requested pickleball courts, bike trails, walking paths, community and neighborhood parks, and large regional parks for residents eager to spend more time outdoors.
With more than 40 parks and recreational amenities of all kinds and sizes already available, the new park development is a good thing because outdoor activities are vital to a community’s collective and individual health, experts say.
Mike Kendrick, the city’s deputy director of parks and recreation, explains. “Parks create a sense of community. So that brings people together of all ages, abilities and ethnic backgrounds. It improves their physical and mental health, and they make new friends.”
So, what can everyone expect with more new parks under way and others being expanded?
New ballfields are in the works for Torino and Tradition regional parks, pickleball players will find eight new courts at Whispering Pines Park, bicyclists and walkers are getting a trail at Wilderness Park, BMX fans will be thrilled to know a track that was planned for the Adventure Park that was canceled has been revived — complete with a pump track — as a possibility for the new Tradition Regional Park. For skaters, Torino Regional Park may very well include a top-notch skate park, the first since the old one at Whispering Pines Park fell into disrepair.
Most of the requests the parks and recreation staff hear are for a mixture of passive and active uses, Kendrick said. Among the most often requested features are nature trails and pathways. That includes walking, hiking and biking trails. These days, the city often builds multi-use trails which are wide enough for pedestrians and bikes.
Passive activities like reading, watching, walking and bike riding offer ways to shrug off the stresses of the day and are said to be a boon to a person’s health. Experts say getting out and meeting neighbors face-to-face and relaxing outdoors can improve health by reducing stress — which is a cause of strokes and heart attacks.
IMPROVING MENTAL HEALTH
Recently The Washington Post reported on a large study that revealed listening to birds sing and walking in nature improves mental health and helps reduce depression, anxiety and paranoia, possibly by focusing attention away from oneself.
In keeping with the idea of reducing stress, it’s well known that pets can help their human companions relax and reduce their blood pressure. Dog parks not only help the pooches, but the spaces also help their human guardians. The new Riverwalk Paseo Park incorporates a large 2-acre dog park with a dog wash, pet waste disposal stations, climbing boulders and shade structures.
The 12-acre Riverland Paseo, which means walk in Spanish, is planned near the Valencia Walk subdivision west of Interstate 95 and is the first city park to be built west of the interstate. GL Homes, which is building in that area, is the general contractor. It will have lighted softball and soccer fields for night play, restrooms, field bleachers and shade structures, and a concession stand. Completion is expected next summer.
Meanwhile, innovative new playgrounds like the one being built at Pioneer Park next to the Port St. Lucie Botanical Gardens give active children a place to climb, jump, crawl and swing on equipment that incorporates the latest features. Pioneer Park’s playground is one-of-a-kind, custom built for the city with a huge crawl-through alligator that will make any child’s eyes glow. A tortoise sculpture they can climb on will be featured at the front. The plan includes a water play area, creative space where children can draw, accessible play features, musical instruments and loads more. Completion is expected early next spring.
With the botanical gardens next door, families can walk over to admire the new butterfly gate and see what’s in bloom, too.
The Jessica Clinton Park on Southbend Boulevard will soon have a new inclusive playground for all abilities, including basket swings, an extra-large seesaw and ground-level entry to a carousel suitable for wheelchairs. It is expected to be ready by early July.
Riding a bike is considered a passive sport by park-builders and is a common request from residents. The Wilderness Park on Westmoreland has designs for a bike and walking trail in the works. “We were waiting on a grant,” said Brad Keen, the city’s assistant director of parks and recreation. To be completed in three stages, the finished trail will include loops that will let cyclists create their own version of their ride each time they go out.
More trails are coming. Keen said the department is working with St. Lucie County to develop a lengthy trail through the county with park connections. Plans also call for developing a trail map, and in 2024 construction of a north-south trail that connects to Torino Regional Park, followed by designing one in 2024-25 that connects to the O.L. Peacock Sr. Park on Dreyfuss Road.
Winterlakes Park on Jannebo Street, about 1,500 feet south of Midway Road and west of Florida’s Turnpike, is a neighborhood park that opened in 2021 but the city is adding to it. A fishing pier is on the way, which should please fishermen and families, plus other grant-funded amenities that include volleyball courts, another fitness exercise trail, two more family pavilions, and a gazebo. All are expected to be finished by summer. The new features will enhance the previously constructed park offerings that include tennis and pickleball courts, a basketball open-air gym, a dog park, baseball practice fields, a multipurpose practice field, an exercise trail, and a playground.
The sport of pickleball has taken off like a rocket. As proof of its importance, Port St. Lucie was named the sixth most obsessed pickleball city in the nation by the online site offers.net. The game is played on small courts similar to tennis courts but with paddles.
The city added a few courts to one of the parks but realized “it didn’t amount to a drop in the bucket,” Keen said. So, many of the tennis courts at Whispering Pines Park are being converted to pickleball courts and courts will be added to other parks as needed.
In the future, it may be decided there is a need for a dedicated pickleball facility, he said. As the affordable, easy-to-learn sport has grown, there is an International Pickleball Federation — and talk of making it an Olympic sport.
Parks are divided by size — with pocket parks being the smallest, neighborhood parks next, then the larger community parks, and finally, regional parks. The city has two regional parks in the works. But neither has a construction or completion date yet.
The 195-acre Torino Regional Park is expected to open first. It runs along North Torino Parkway and in spots touches East and West Torino parkways. Although originally designed and permitted in 2007, it stalled until January of this year. Since then the public has been asked to suggest new features.
Some ideas include a skate park, a trail for bikes, walking and jogging, a playground, courts for volleyball, tennis and pickleball, a nature trail and preserve area, lighted ballfields, and a dog park. Another meeting is planned for summer, with a conceptual plan ready by fall.
For the curious, visit https://cityofpsl.com/government/departments/parks-recreation/torino-regional-park for more information on Torino Regional Park.
Tradition Regional Park, a 110-acre park a quarter mile from the end of Tradition Parkway that will be constructed in collaboration with Mattamy Homes but owned by the city, is not as far along as Torino Park.
“Mattamy representatives have collaborated with city staff and proposed a Phase I that will include four lighted baseball fields, one lighted multipurpose soccer field, three unlighted multipurpose/soccer practice fields, a BMX element and supporting infrastructure to include parking, restrooms, and concession areas,” Kendrick said.
PSL’S FIRST PARK
In comparison with today’s parks, with their elaborate planning and design procedures and often a phased timing to complete the larger ones, the city’s first park was simplicity itself. Just about everyone has driven past Sportsmans Park on Prima Vista Boulevard at Irving Street with its tall chain-link fence and sports fields behind it.
It was the first park in Port St. Lucie, and it was built by the Optima Club through the efforts of many volunteers, who also maintained it afterward. As time went on, lights were added for evening games and the park was fenced. Today a connected section on Irving Street called Sportsmans Park West contains the football field and track.
Dennis Williams, owner of the Shell Bazaar, and his wife, Christine, remember the earliest days. “There was no other park,” he said. “We had one baseball field, a basketball court, tennis court and not much else. There were no lights. At the time, the baseball backstop was facing the parking lot, so a baseball sometimes went sailing over the top and broke a car window. We kids thought that was a trophy.”
“It was hard to get a Little League team together at first,” he said. “We had to get kids from White City to play with us.”
Originally on acreage owned by General Development Corp., better known as GDC, it was handed over to the city in 1975. Sportsmans was definitely an active park where neighbors met, socialized and played together. “Parks are a central place where families and friends can gather and where children can play and discover the wonders of nature and enjoy the great outdoors,” Keen said.
RIVER PARK MARINA
In the city’s earliest days, social life also revolved around a county-owned marina. River Park Marina, first known as the Port St. Lucie Yacht Club and Marina, featured a big meeting hall, where clubs met and people gathered, and a swimming pool. It was later known as the North Port Marina and finally its name was changed to River Park Marina. The marina, now with a playground, picnic tables, restrooms, a boat ramp and docks, but no pool, is on an island just off Prima Vista. Its construction pre-dated Sportsmans Park.
There was a time when rules were in place for when a new park could be built, but Keen and Kendrick said that doesn’t work anymore to meet the needs of Port St. Lucie.
While some communities still try to use them there are too many individual factors to consider, Kendrick said. The types of parks and features requested and the land available for parks are among the changing considerations.
Port St. Lucie has a great variety of parks and many more to look forward to in the future.
WHAT TO DO AND HOW TO PAY?
The 2019 Parks Master Plan [which is the most recent], lays out in great detail what the city could do — from repairs to a citywide trail system to expansions and new parks. Funding needs of around $201 million over 10 years and possible sources such as grants are identified starting on page 165 but many changes have happened since those very rough estimates were made. Visit https://tinyurl.com/ParksMaster to see what was planned in 2019.
Go to the Port St. Lucie city parks website and then click “interactive map” in a paragraph down toward the bottom for a listing of parks and facilities: www.cityofpsl.com/government/departments/parks-recreation
Jessica Clinton Park
3200 SE Southbend Blvd. | 878.2277
Getting a new inclusive playground. Nature trail, basketball and tennis courts, garden area, fitness stations.
Lyngate Park and Dog Park
1302 SE Lyngate Drive | 878.2277
Dog park; baseball/softball field; basketball, racquetball, tennis and volleyball courts; playground and a pavilion.
McChesney Park and Dog Park
1585 SW Cashmere Blvd. | 878.2277
Large soccer field, fishing, dog park, playground.
O.L. Peacock Sr. Park
1950 SW Dreyfuss Boulevard | 878.2277
Track, fishing, open space. Will be connected to a bike trail eventually.
Port St. Lucie Botanical Gardens
2410 SE Westmoreland Blvd. | 337.1959
Newly designed butterfly gates, gardens, fishing, nature trail, meeting hall, fountain and lake.
201 NW Prima Vista Blvd. | 878.2277
Baseball and softball fields, basketball and tennis courts, playground and fitness station with adjacent football field and track.
U.S. Submarine Veterans Park
801 SE Atlantus Ave. | 878.2277
Fitness station, nature trail.
5241 NW Jannebo St. | 878.2277
Nature trail, fishing, pickleball, soccer, fitness stations, dog park, playground.
2701 SE Westmoreland Blvd. | 878.2277
Fishing permitted. Bike and walking trail to come.
Woodland Trails Park
1485 SW Calmar Ave. | 878.2277
Nature trail, dog park, fitness station, playground.
Woodstork Trail Park
1957 SE Hillmoor Drive | 878.2277
Nature trail, fitness station, fishing.
Whispering Pines Park and Tennis Center
800 SW Darwin Blvd. | 878.2277
Baseball, softball and football fields, pickleball, tennis and volleyball courts, playground.
2200 SE Veterans Memorial Parkway | 878.2277
A long boardwalk over the water along the shoreline with benches, fishing permitted.
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