8 Flags Playscapes are “accessible and inclusive”

Benjamin Morrison
Vice President
8 Flags Playscapes, Inc.
January 15, 2020

When 8 Flags Playscapes was initially founded just over ten years ago, it did so with the goal of creating the region’s first accessible and inclusive playground here in our community. Building on the success of that endeavor, our organization has continued to partner with the City of Fernandina Beach to develop other inclusive recreational facilities here in Fernandina Beach, including Egans Creek Park as well as features such as the Mobi-Mat beach access systems. Presently, we are excited to be working with the City once again on the first new park to be built here in several decades: Simmons Road Park.

Looking back, it is humbling to consider the countless individuals and organizations here in our community that have dedicated their time, talent, and financial resources to help make our vision become a reality. Few communities that I am aware of have the ability to come together to achieve a common goal better than Fernandina Beach, and we couldn’t be prouder to be a part of it. We are advocates for the benefits of public-private partnerships, and hope that the successes we have achieved help to lay the groundwork for other organizations to see a path to help make their dreams a reality as well. If nothing else, our organization is proof that five concerned citizens with a vision for something better can truly make a difference.

While many people would measure our success based on the beautiful and unique facilities that we have been able to create for this community, it is something far more meaningful that we seek to leave behind as our legacy. When we first started back in 2007, the words “accessible” and “inclusive” were rarely part of the conversation when it came to the development of our parks and playgrounds. Since then, we have worked tirelessly to lead by example and educate our fellow citizens, city staff, as well as our elected officials on why a change in perspective was necessary. So much has been accomplished, yet there is so much more that remains to be done.

This past Saturday, members from my organization were asked to provide a demonstration for several City Commissioners on the current state of accessibility at our playgrounds. A visit to the existing facilities at Main Beach as well as Pirate Playground provided an excellent basis of comparison to better understand the benefits of the inclusive approach 8 Flags Playscapes took in developing the latter. Based on comments from those who participated, it would seem as though this message was well received.

I will be the first to admit that the process by which Simmons Road Park received final approval proved far more controversial and adversarial than I could have ever imagined. However, I strongly believe there is a silver lining to be found. For the first time, discussions about accessibility and inclusiveness have been taking place at City Advisory Board and Commission meetings. Around town, I hear our fellow citizens discussing the need for all of our facilities to not only be accessible, but also inclusive. This is the momentum shift that our organization has been working towards for so long. Now is the time for us to come together and show what the values of our community truly are.

If you, your organization, or your business would like to learn more about what 8 Flags Playscapes represents, please reach out to us. Please contact your elected officials and let them know that you support their efforts to improve accessibility throughout our city. We would like to thank everyone who has helped to make our past endeavors so successful. We haven’t just improved our parks and playgrounds; together, we have changed lives.

Benjamin Morrison

Editor’s Note: Benjamin Morrison is the Vice President of 8 Flags Playscapes, Inc. He serves on the City of Fernandina Beach Historic District Council and the 2020 Charter Review Committee. He has been a resident of Amelia Island for 14 years.

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