City, school officials christen Landon track and field

City, school officials christen Landon track and field
Instead of cutting a ribbon, city and school officials decided to christen Landon field in celebration of the end of a temporary suspension of use. From left: Eight-grade soccer player Elizabeth Nowak, City Council President Lori Boyer, Duval County School Board President Ashley Smith-Juarez, Julia Landon College Preparatory School Principal Timothy Feagins, Landon Athletic Director Michelle Bourgholtzer, and seventh-grade soccer player Sebestian Brunner.

No longer will Julia Landon College Preparatory School students have to play soccer somewhere else due to a soggy field.

In celebration of the completion of gutter repairs and drainage structures at Landon’s athletic facility on Minerva Avenue, school and city officials held a christening event Sept. 15 to celebrate having the track and field back in action in time for the school year.

Instead of holding a traditional ribbon-cutting ceremony, officials thought it was more fitting to pour buckets of water on the field to demonstrate its ability to drain properly.

Taking part in the water-filled ceremony were City Council President Lori Boyer, Duval County Public School Board President Ashley Smith-Juarez, Landon Middle School Principal Timothy Feagins, Landon Middle School Athletic Director Michelle Bourgholtzer and two Landon soccer players.

Other Duval County School and City dignitaries who attended the celebration were Assistant Superintendent of Family and Community Engagement Larry Roziers; Assistant Superintendent of Operations Don Nelson, Assistant Superintendent of School Choice Pearl Roziers, San Marco Preservation Society President LeAnna Cumber, Tom McKnight, City of Jacksonville manager of contract administration, engineering division; Andy Eckert, Duval County Public Schools executive director of design and construction, and Keith Meyerl, City of Jacksonville chief of recreation programming.

Landon’s symphonic band, led by music teacher Kristopher Beckstrom, and the Lions’ cheerleading squad performed during the ceremony. Also on hand were team members from the Landon football, boys’ and girls’ soccer, and track squads.

The drainage project marks the first time the city government and the Duval County Public School Board have joined together to bring a mutually beneficial project to fruition, said Smith-Juarez. The project was initiated after Boyer, who represents District 5, and Smith-Juarez, who represents the San Marco area on the School Board, collaborated to find a way to convert the poorly drained field into a safe place for both students and members of the public to use.

Realizing funds to pay for such a venture were scarce, Boyer agreed to kick in $75,000 from her Loblolly Recreation/Parks account toward the $89,000 project with the stipulation that the school field would be named Landon Middle School Park, and become a public place where San Marco residents can safely jog, walk and play when it is not in use by Landon students.

“Last year the Landon Lions did not schedule any games on their field due to safety issues and standing water,” said Smith-Juarez. “For the same reason, nearby residents couldn’t use the field for exercise or for recreation. With the support of the City of Jacksonville and in particular District 5 representative and Council President Lori Boyer, we now have a safe play field for students and a public park for the community.”

Boyer said although the drainage project took a year longer than anticipated it demonstrates “what’s possible for partnership” between the city and Duval County Public Schools.

“I want to remind area residents to take care of this property. Don’t litter. This is kind of a pilot project, and we have to see how we do,” Boyer said. “We don’t want to see any abuses here, so don’t leave things cluttered for the next morning when students arrive or we will have a challenge. This can be a model for other opportunities.”

By Marcia Hodgson
Resident Community News

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