News & Information > News Releases

For Immediate Release:                                          Contact:
February 27, 2017                                                       Melanie Mowry Etters
                                                                                    Communication Director


Hawkins Park is Opened

MILTON, FL— The Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) local dignitaries, and people with disabilities cut the ribbon today to officially open Hawkins Recreational Park in Santa Rosa County. Hawkins Park is an accessible park for people with disabilities and their families. Park visitors can now enjoy picnicking, fishing, bird watching, and other activities.

The Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) manages Hawkins Park. The park entrance is on Munson Highway, just past 5550 Bubba Lane, in Milton, Florida.

APD has worked for a year to replace playground equipment and make repairs to the restroom building due to damage caused by vandals. People with disabilities will maintain the park through an agreement APD has with RESPECT of Florida.

APD Director Barbara Palmer said, “We are excited to reopen Hawkins Park and make it available to people with disabilities and their families. It is an accessible recreational area for people to use in Northwest Florida. We want Floridians with disabilities to come and enjoy this beautiful environment.”

RESPECT of Florida Executive Director Ryland Musick said, “We commend the work APD has done to provide an accessible recreational area for individuals with disabilities and their families. RESPECT is proud to be a part of the maintenance of Hawkins Park. Our partnership with APD, through this contract and several others, allows us to help individuals with disabilities find meaningful employment and receive needed supports.”

The park is open to visitors who are Floridians with disabilities, their families, and caregivers. The park is only closed three days out of the year: Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.

The 23-acre parcel was donated by the Hawkins family to the state of Florida in 1977 with the requirement that people with disabilities have access to the land.  The state completed construction on the recreational park in 1979. It was originally named Round Pen Bayou Park due to its location on the bayou. It was renamed Hawkins Recreational Park in September 1986 in honor of the donor's father, Herman Calvin Hawkins.  

About $93,000 in repairs and renovations have been completed at Hawkins Park recently. The playground has been refurbished and the facilities are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. There are also pavilions with grills that can house special events for large family gatherings.

The festivities today included a performance by Pyramid singer Betty Wells who sang the National Anthem. Remarks were made by APD Director Barbara Palmer, Senator Doug Broxson, RESPECT of Florida Executive Director Ryland Musick, and Hawkins Park user and parent Richard Fennel.

APD supports people with developmental disabilities to live, learn, and work in their communities.  The agency annually serves more than 50,000 Floridians with autism, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, intellectual disabilities, Down syndrome, Phelan-McDermid syndrome, and Prader-Willi syndrome. For more information about the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, visit or call toll-free 1-866-APD-CARES (1-866-273-2273).