Written by Tesa Burch, Communications Director, Central Panhandle Association of REALTORS®
Hurricane Michael made landfall in Panama City, Florida on October 10, 2018. In about 4 hours, the category 5 storm turned a string of beautiful vacation destination cities into piles of rubble. Eleven Northwest Florida counties declared states of emergency. Hurricane Michael brought with it 14 feet of storm surge in coastal cities and sustained 161 miles an hour winds at its worst. This speed was determined much later as because the storm blew away every local device to record wind speed. 3,000 structures were destroyed and an estimated 50,000 were damaged in some way. An estimated 2.8 million acres of trees were damaged or catastrophically damaged. Brick buildings crumbled to the ground. Everyone who lived in the hurricane’s path had a storm story: some part of their life that was either crushed by a tree, flooded, or blown away.
Public spaces also experienced severe damage. Rebuilding these places for our community has been a slow and difficult endeavor. At the end of 2020, Central Panhandle Association of REALTORS® (CPAR) saw an opportunity to apply for a Placemaking grant from the National Association of REALTORS® to help rebuild a park destroyed by the hurricane. Our area had many public spaces that could be considered eyesores or uninhabitable following the storm. We reached out to the City of Panama City to determine the area where they saw the greatest need and they identified Adams Park.
In March, CPAR REALTORS® coordinated a volunteer workday to restore and improve Adams Park, located in a heavily impacted neighborhood. Adams Park is in an area called the Cove, historically known for its lush tree canopy. The tree canopy that defined the park was completely wiped out along with the sea wall and existing benches.
To help rebuild the park, we joined forces with the City of Panama City Quality of Life Department. We spread the word to the local community through social media and the local news channel WMBB News 13. Over 30 REALTORS® and volunteers came out to take part in the event and helped to install new pergola swing benches overlooking the bay and plant new landscaping in the park. Throughout the morning of the event, people who passed by were so excited and grateful to see the effort put in by our volunteers.
Rebuilding a new sense of normal, post-hurricane, has been incredibly helpful to our local community who endured so much following the natural disaster. “Panhandle Strong” and “850 Strong” have become rallying cries for efforts to rebuild in our area. This park can once again has become a destination in the community and provides a place for residents to enjoy the waterfront landscape. Our REALTORS® also got to lead the way in improving our little piece of paradise, one place at a time. Please visit https://www.mypanhandle.com/news/panama-city/local-volunteers-work-to-re... for additional information.