The rejuvenation of a hard-hit area of Eastpoint, ravaged a year ago by fire, six months ago by Hurricane Michael, and over recent years by the meth epidemic, has begun.

A celebration and dedication ceremony for the new Hope Park - in the heart of the Ridge, Wilderness and Bear Creek road neighborhood that was engulfed in flames in June 2018 by the Lime Rock Road fire - was held March 24.

“The vision of Hope Park represents a shared belief held by many that we can and should do more to help build strong families and children in our community,” said James Donald, a retired Army general active with the St. George Island United Methodist Church, a key backer of the project.

“When completed in 2020, Hope Park is destined to become a model for private and government cooperation in addressing a community’s need,” he said. “In recent weeks, God has worked miracles sending many men and women to rally behind this cause. They see the unlimited opportunities of Hope Park to potentially address many of the social needs of the community.”

Serving as the ceremony’s moderator was longtime Eastpoint resident Joyce Estes, who first put forth the idea for the park in December, appealing for support from the county commission and working with the UMC church to buy the property at 159 Bear Greek Road, rumored to be a haven for the sort of illicit drug activity that plagues sections of Eastpoint as well as elsewhere in the county.

The vision Estes kindled with Eastpoint pastors, Sheriff A.J. Smith, county commissioners and others was to create a refuge where children could play, a community center for families, and a place to house a substation for the sheriff’s office.

“While government must help rebuild, friends of Eastpoint recognize that there is a role we can all play in rebuilding the community.,” read the ceremony’s program. “The vision of Hope Park has since flourished as so many people have stepped up to offer their time and resources.”

Smith, County Commissioner William Massey, in whose district the park sits, and Commissioner Ricky Jones, whose district is adjacent to the site, were among the political dignitaries who took part in the ceremony.

Pastor Scott Shiver, from the Eastpoint Church of God, and Pastor Brian Brightly, from the St. George island and Eastpoint UMC churches, led a contingent of local clergy, who were joined by Pat Hoskin, from the Northeast Ohio Disciples for Christ Mission, a group which has been active in preparing the site.

Donald said the first phase of the project has included purchase of the property, and tear down and removal of debris off of it. The second phase, now underway, features adding amenities, including a classroom, basketball court, picnic pavilion, playground equipment, landscaping and fencing, as well as security cameras that can relay images to the sheriff’s office.

“Another building for a nursery may be added at a later date,” said Donald. “The state forest across the street presents opportunities for camping program and outings.Lots more is envisioned.”

He said the park’s facilities plan to offer youth programs like scouting, church services and activities, and AA and substance abuse programs – all in keeping with its mission to be a community gathering place for families and their children.

Donald said project organizers are looking for volunteers to serve on a community advisory board, whose members go well beyond the St. George Island UMC church’s initiative. He said the combined ecumenical effort has been made possible with the support of local businesses, including Coastal Clearing and Development Inc., Jason White Construction Inc., and Big Top Grocery; the county’s solid waste department; and local churches, including the Eastpoint Church of God, St. George Island First Baptist Church, the Apalachicola First United Methodist Church, St. Patrick Catholic Church, First Pentecostal Holiness Church in Apalachicola, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and many others.

“The entire effort is being made possible by generous donations of vision supporters and many donated services,” Donald said. “We invite all to get involve and support this God-inspired vision by volunteering to help and sharing resources.”

For questions, contact Joyce Estes at 927-2088 or email at jjestes@fairpoint.net. Follow the project at www.sgiumc.org or on Facebook