Conceptual redesign of Flagler Park hosted at historic courthouse

Lake Okeechobee News/Richard Marion
The Economic Council of Okeechobee hosted a reception at the historic courthouse on Feb. 18 to show off the early plans for a redesign of Flagler Park.

OKEECHOBEE — A showcase for a conceptual redesign of Flagler Park is being hosted at the historic courthouse in Okeechobee for public viewing for the next few weeks.

The redesign was spearheaded by the Economic Council of Okeechobee (ECO), a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization that has operated in Okeechobee for nearly 30 years with the goals of improving the quality of life and helping foster a healthy business climate in the county.

ECO says the goal of the redesign, which is still in the early conceptual stage, is to establish a cohesive design plan for all 7 acres of the park that sits downtown in the heart of Okeechobee.

“This is a large-scale quality of life project intended to preserve Okeechobee’s history, highlight our rural identity, establish continuity between the parks and to make our downtown space a unique attraction for residents and visitors,” said ECO Executive Director Jennifer Tewksbury. “I’m not aware of any community near us who has over seven acres of green space in the heart of their downtown preserved specifically for use as a public park.

“It’s our obligation to ensure this space is well kept and developed in such a way that it’s attractive and useful for the people of Okeechobee now and for future generations,” she continued.

Although still in the conceptual stage, ECO has commissioned landscape architect Michael Flaugh to incorporate some of the existing and future park structures into the eventual overall design plan. Those early design plans now on display in the courthouse incorporate things such as the veterans’ memorial and upcoming cattle drive sculpture project into the redesign.

The redesign calls for the park located between Southwest Second and Southwest Third avenues to be named “Speckled Perch Square” and envisions a traditional fountain or water feature for children as in its center as the focal point. Life-sized bronze art depicting native Florida wildlife could then be placed at the center of the water feature or other prominent locations of the park.

The park between Southwest Sixth Ave. and Southwest Seventh, which currently holds the butterfly garden, would utilize landscape designs to blend the colorful butterfly art displays with the “old Florida” aesthetic of the other parks and provide a play area for children. Added landscape buffers would serve as a barrier between park attendees and nearby traffic.

Lake Okeechobee News/Richard Marion
One of many displays shows a redesign concept for part of Flagler Park. The Economic Council of Okeechobee is hosting a redesign forum at the historic courthouse over the next few weeks.

The Veterans’ Memorial Square near Parrot Ave would see additional seating at memorial monuments with redesigned landscape screens to provide privacy for reflection.

“Many local stakeholder organizations have helped shape this project into what it is today,” explained Mrs. Tewksbury. “We’ve made great efforts to be inclusive in the input gathering process and we invite others to participate as well. This is a community project. While the Economic Council may have organized and spearheaded the initiative, this wouldn’t be possible without the input, support and ideas from everyone in the community. It’s certainly too big of a project to be a one-man show.”

“After more input is gathered, we plan to present this to the City Council for their consideration,” Mrs. Tewksbury continued. “The designs at this point are all conceptual. We’ve intentionally tried to stay out of the weeds of specific details. The main goals we’re trying to accomplish are continuity from one end of the park to the other, and to show the need for public and private investment into this valuable space for our community.”

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