- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28—PANAMA CITY — A park that recently opened in Panama City will help with stormwater management in addition to beautifying the area, officials said.

Located on Lisenby Avenue near 13th Street, Kenneth R. Hammons Park includes a nearly half-mile, paved walking track that winds around several retention ponds designed to filter sediment and ultimately improve water quality in St. Andrew Bay.

“The stormwater treatment portion of this project will help capture the sediments and accompanying nutrients from a 200-acre drainage basin, preventing them from entering Lake Caroline and ultimately, St. Andrew Bay,” Panama City Public Works Director Neil H. Fravel said in a news release. “This project also transforms an overgrown area into a recreational jewel that preserves the natural beauty and will be used by our citizens for years to come.”

Preventing nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorous in runoff water from entering the lake and the bay is important, as these nutrients contribute to algae blooms, Fravel said. Algae blooms on the surface of bodies of water block light from reaching marine life underneath and can wreak havoc on marine ecosystems.

“If you’ve ever looked at Lake Caroline in the summer, you can see that there’s a lot of plant life there growing on the surface,” he said.

A $785,000 grant, part of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill settlement, paid for the park. Panama City Public Works bought the land back in 2011 to support a dredging project in Lake Caroline, but officials were hopeful even then to create a stormwater management facility.

The park was named for Kenneth R. Hammons, the Panama City city manager who died last year.

“We’re really thrilled that we could, number one, do a project like this, two, that it turned out so nicely and, three, that we could name it in his honor and remind citizens well into the future of the legacy that he left to the city,” Fravel said.

Charles and Faye Myers live near the park and were making use of the walking track Sunday afternoon.

“It’s a nice little park. It really is.” Charles Myers said. “I think it’s a good idea. The land wasn’t being used for anything else.”

He said he and his wife planned to visit the park at least once a week.

“It’ll be really nice,” he said.

The Northwest Florida Water Management District and the Panama City Engineering Department prepared the permitting and designs for the park.

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(c)2015 The News Herald (Panama City, Fla.)

Visit The News Herald (Panama City, Fla.) at www.newsherald.com

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