Joe Moody Harris Park once served as the place to go in Panama City Beach for disc golf, long walks through the wetlands, and so much more. After Hurricane Michael came through, it was never the same. Nearly five years later, it’s still wiped out and a shadow of its former self. The gates stay locked to keep people from coming in and getting hurt by the debris that’s still strewn about.
Before the hurricane, this park had it all. An excellent hole disc golf course, a playground with exercise stations, picnic areas with BBQ pits, public restrooms, and a community center. The boardwalk allowed visitors to waltz through the pristine wetlands to admire all the lush vegetation and even do a little birdwatching. When it came time to rest, there were benches here and there, including ones that allowed you to swing back and forth.
The hurricane destroyed it all, tearing up the playground equipment, exercise stations, and picnic areas. Not even the trees were spared by the destructive storm. Although that was over four years ago, the city has done little to restore the park to its former glory. Several years ago, residents attempted to remove the debris and make room for a full rebuild. They even put in porta-potties to encourage more people to come by and start restoring the park.
Without government support, their efforts quickly fell flat, resulting in the park getting abandoned yet again. Nowadays, the grass sits waist-high, hiding all the dangerous debris within its blades. Trees have failed to pop up despite all the open land. The gates stay locked but only manage to keep vehicles out. Houseless individuals often come here to set up camp and meander through the damaged land.
In the past year, efforts to restore the park were reignited — and this time, the local government got involved. City officials invited the public to an open house to review the proposed park designs. All attendees could ask questions and provide feedback to help guide future restoration efforts.
Through that process, they ended up with two promising concepts with walking trails and a modern playground. At the center of both designs is a bigger and better community center, complete with a catering kitchen. With its larger footprint, this center would serve as a much-needed gathering place and recreational hub for the community.
The main difference between the two concepts is how the northwest corner of the park will be used. In one concept, the designers restored the nine-hole disc golf park. On the other hand, they proposed alternative ways to use the land, including pickleball courts. No matter what design gets chosen, city officials promise to fill two acres with trees and nurture them until they’ve recreated the gorgeous tree canopy of yesteryear.
-Although there are ways to get into the park without jumping the gates, it’s really not safe to visit until the park gets rebuilt.
-Watch for updates to have a chance to attend the park reopening once the revitalization efforts are complete.