I had a wake-up call last week.

The previous seven months had been a blur of tackling inherited challenges – massive debt, a broken assessment system, crumbling infrastructure. But in the whirlwind, I stopped for a second and realized how easy it is to forget about the great things about living in Nassau County. Like our parks.

It happened on a glorious morning visit to the county’s Summer Recreation Program in Eisenhower Park. Kids were painting with watercolors at picnic tables in the shade of big oak trees.

“Wow,” I thought, “look at the good things we’re providing.”

Nassau’s summer program, which also operates in Wantagh Park, Cantiague Park, and Nickerson Beach, fills up immediately, and it’s no wonder. Kids get to swim in Olympic-sized pools and play in splash parks, play basketball and tennis, and kick off their sneakers to run on turf fields. The counselors are engaged and caring. Parents love our summer program because it not only provides a fun, safe and active summer for their kids, it doubles as affordable childcare.

Our parks offer so much to so many. The county’s nationally renowned public golf courses are affordable, manicured, and challenging. I got the chance to chat with golfers at Eisenhower who praised the condition of our fairways, roughs and greens, and families playing mini-golf in Eisenhower and Wantagh Park. The exercise trails were busy with walkers and joggers of all ages.

At a noontime concert in Eisenhower, I met residents who sat in a beautiful shaded area as they took in the free entertainment. Afterward, I met with Nassau staff technicians who  take great pride in their work behind the scenes, putting on the dozens of free concerts and movies at Eisenhower, Nickerson Beach, Cedar Creek, North Woodmere, Christopher Morley and Grant Parks and Chelsea Mansion.

Take a look around your county parks to appreciate all the beautiful plantings. Our horticulturalists take such care to create the most beautiful and varied surroundings – from the sea grass at Nickerson, to the mint growing at Cantiague, to the beds of colorful flowers in all our parks.

And there’s always something new to learn. Did you know that Eisenhower Park is bigger than Central Park? Here’s something else: I noticed a larger-than-normal crowd of 30 something guys between Eisenhower’s stunning Veterans’ and Firefighters’ Memorials. I struck up a conversation with these guys and learned the spot is a popular “PokeStop.” I hope Pokemon got a Leisure Pass.

What I love the most is the sense of community that flourishes in a public park. People dancing at the Disco Night concert at the Harry Chapin Lakeside Theater, seniors listening to big-band music at the noontime concerts, families picnicking together. These parks belong to you.

That is why I did not want my name on any county park signs and that decision has resonated more than I ever could have imagined. During the hours I spend at your parks, people tell me how much they appreciate my making good on that promise.

For the complete Nassau County 2018 Free Summer Entertainment Schedule please visit: nassaucountyny.gov/DocumentCenter/View/21964

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