New $4.8 million recreation center opens in Christmas

On Tuesday, Orange County officials cut the ribbon on the new East Orange District Park Recreation Center in Christmas.

The $4.8 million project includes two multi-purpose fields, concession stands, bathrooms and a five-thousand square foot recreation center. Nine pieces of original artwork completed by St. Augustine artist Manila Clough hangs on the walls inside the center.




Clough said the artwork is inspired by the native plants and animals of Orange County and is made of stained glass and beads and is made to be playful.

“When you go up close to that mosaic you’re going to discover a little alphabet, poetry, your mom’s dishes broken up.”

“I feel the people in Christmas have something to be proud of,” Orange County Parks Advisory Board Member and longtime Christmas resident Bobby Beagles said about the grand opening.

Beagles said it took years to transform the vacant land into the park.

East Orange District Park was originally part of Christmas Creek Preserve, which was purchased by the County in 1999. In 2001, the Preserve land was divided with 243 acres transferred to the Parks and Recreation Division for the new park.

Beagles said he worked to get one million dollars in state grants so the park could be built. He said he wanted children and seniors to have a place to go for after-school programs and computer needs. One million dollars in Orange County Park Impact Fees were used to match a Florida Department of Economic Opportunity Grant.

“This is a great gift for Christmas,” said Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings.

But Beagles said the park is not complete. The original plans still call for a baseball fields, a playground and fishing pier.

Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said it could take another one million dollars to finish the project but the county is committed to seeing it through.

“There’s no question we’ll get it done. It may have to be phased in over time,” Mayor Demings said.

The center is currently offering some programs right now, including home-school PE for K-5th graders and a parents’ night out. Beagles said the center hopes to add an after-school program soon.