PALM COAST, Fla. - The brand new Southern Recreation Center and Lehigh Trailhead facilities will be receiving their grand openings this month. The event will take place on Friday, February 23rd from 4:30 pm to 7:00 pm, at 1290 Belle Terre Pkwy.
The grand opening is open to the community, many of whom have no likely seen the ongoing the construction and wondered what it's going to look like. Self-guided tours will be set up for attendees to see the full features of the facility, and staff from the City of Palm Coast will be on-hand to answer questions.
Featured in the rec center are offices, restrooms, locker rooms and showers, a kitchen and dining area, two multi-purpose rooms, a lobby, an outdoor patio, and a balcony. Twelve pickleball courts are on-site, six of which are covered in order to be usable year-round.
"This initiative reflects our City Council's unwavering commitment to prioritize safety and reliability in our services and underscores the remarkable partnerships and cross-agency cooperation between Palm Coast, the Tourist Development Council, the Flagler County Board of County Commissioners, the Florida Department of Transportation, and the River to Sea Transportation Planning Organization," said Palm Coast City Manager Denise Bevan. "I sincerely hope that the community will join us at the grand opening of the Southern Recreation Center and Lehigh Trailhead on February 23rd."
The Southern Recreation Center was funded by a combination of $7.1 million in city funds, $3.5 million from the State Road 11 community redevelopment agency, and $739,000 from the Flagler County Government Tourist Development Council. The portion out of the city's wallet was exclusively paid for by impact fees earmarked for parks and recreation. In other words, despite a common complaint among residents that amenity funds could be diverted other projects, the city was bound to use them for parks and recreation purposes.
According to the city's news release, the facility was designed in accordance with the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards. Just next to the rec center is the new Lehigh Trailhead, the most comprehensive improvement project to Lehigh Trail since its opening. The trail debuted in 2010, after the land was purchased by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and a walking trail was funded by the FDEP, Florida Department of Transportation, St. Johns River Water Management District, and the Flagler County Commission.
Improvements to the Lehigh Trailhead include a new restroom building, community garden, a large and small dog park, a paved parking lot, better lighting, and a series of pavilions, benches, and sidewalks. Rentals for the community garden are available by contacting the Palm Coast Community Center at (386) 986-2323.
Earlier versions of the plans for the the Southern Recreation Center were the subject of great debate and intrigue in summer 2021, when the project was more commonly referred to as 'the pickleball courts'. The city faced an uphill battle in communicating the features of the amenity beyond the courts, and one City Council meeting became so heated that a resident was escorted off-premises and temporarily banned from City Hall for approaching then-Mayor Milissa Holland during the meeting. Following those events, communications surrounding the development mostly kept the pickleball courts out of the spotlight.