It is charming, peaceful and Panama City commissioners want to make it better.
Throughout the year, McKenzie Park is the center of many popular events under the trees, but there is an effort to bring about changes.
Outdoor activities, families enjoying the sunshine, and a safe environment, all aspects Panama City city commissioners hope to see in place after improving the McKenzie Park.
“I want everyone that lives in Panama City to feel welcome at McKenzie, said Jenna Haligas, PC Commissioner Ward 1.
City leaders hope to eliminate people sleeping on benches, physical assaults, and other disturbances.
“the truth is this has been a problem in downtown Panama City for decades, everybody keeps trying to come up with solutions that are not working,” said Haligas.
Commissioners say that improving McKenzie Park will not only help nearby businesses, but also draw in more residents and reduce the crime rates.
“Most of the people are okay, but it’s always the bad ones that you know cause things to be addressed, said Greg Brudnicki, Panama City Mayor.
Panama City Chief of Police Scott Ervin says the more active a park is, the more likely crime will subside.
“If there’s a presence it kind of goes into the whole crime triangle where there’s a capable guard, there’s people looking, there’s people watching, more eyes, ears, it can have an impact on that,” said Ervin.
Commissioners say it’s only a small amount of people that are the issue.
The biggest concern for downtown business owners, the repeat offenders.
Ervin says they’re searching for a way to stop these individuals from re-entering the park.
“We’re getting rid of the problem not the general population,” said Ervin.
The chief says additional officers may also be a part of the solution.
The mayor says commissioners will share their ideas to change McKenzie from a passive to an active park.
He says rather than getting rid of the park, they hope to add positive changes.