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Ormond Beach Observer Friday, Mar. 23, 2018 1 year ago

Park Hero: kids meet the man behind Rockefeller Gardens

Great Kids Learning Center meets the final community hero for its upcoming Hero Fest.
by: Jarleene Almenas News Editor

Learn your trees. Learn your shrubs. Read every night for 30 minutes.

That was landscape architect Paul MacDonald's advice for the group of young elementary students from Great Kids Learning Center after school program gathered at the steps behind the stage at the Rockefeller gardens on Thursday, March 22. MacDonald works with the city to design it's parks and playgrounds, and has been chosen as a community hero for Great Kid's upcoming Hero Fest. Because of this, the kids had a lot of questions about him and his job — especially since he designed the very park they were in. 

"How do you make this park so beautiful?" asked 6-year-old Chloe Cordle.

MacDonald smiled.

"It's a lot of hard work," he said, and then proceeded to explain the teamwork that goes into maintaining the city's parks.

Last year, Great Kids honored heroes of local history at their first-ever Hero Fest. This year,  Executive Director Katie Morelli wanted to connect the community even more with the program's learning experiences. She said she wanted to be able to give the kids relevant experiences with local people, and that motivated her to bring the community to the kids to talk about their careers.

“They’re going to learn about the qualities that heroes have and they’re going to see how we connect our character program," Morelli said. "We have a big emphasis on character development, and so they’re going to see how we connect what we learned about having good character traits and how that leads to these community heroes that exhibit those character traits."

MacDonald is the last of the 10 community heroes the children have gotten a chance to meet. At the Hero Fest on May 9, the kids will honor the community heroes they have met and celebrate them through presentations, music and art. 

“It’s been an honor to be picked," MacDonald said. It was an absolute honor. I was kind of shocked.”

He has been working with the city of Ormond Beach for the past 16 years, and aside from Rockefeller Gardens, he has also been part of the design teams for the Andy Romano Beachfront Park, the Environmental Discovery Center and his favorite: the Limitless Park at the Ormond Beach Sports Complex. For that specific park, MacDonald told the children he spent a lot of time with his own kids going to parks and figuring out how to build a playground that would be fun for  children of all capacities.

And the most exciting part of his job? 

Seeing what projects the city will come up for him to do in the future.

“I never know what I’m going to work on next," MacDonald said.


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