Officials celebrate new Fernandina Beach playground, discuss rubber mulch

aaron bean playground fernandina
Mayor Bean presented Betty Berkman with a key to the city at the ceremony.

Usually, you hear about playground equipment that needs overhauling or replacement. In Fernandina Beach recently, officials came out to celebrate the opening of a brand new playground at Central Park.

“Recently, Commissioner (Hupp) Huppmann and I — didn’t know the other one was going to be there — but we both ended up at Central Park in Fernandina Beach for the unveiling and ribbon-cutting for what is called Teddy Bear Playground,” said Nassau County Commissioner John Martin.

“The reason it’s called that is because Mr. David Berkman, who passed away recently, he loved teddy bears. He was a very successful businessman, and … he would always have teddy bears in his car, or in his trunk. If he saw a child — whether they were having a good day, a bad day, whatever — he would hand teddy bears out to make their day.”

Berkman’s wife, Betty, donated half a million dollars to make the playground a reality.

The event drew out other area dignitaries, like U.S. Rep. Aaron Bean, Fernandina Beach Mayor Bradley Bean and the other City Commissioners.

Mayor Bean presented Betty Berkman with a key to the city at the ceremony.

“They were waiting patiently with their parents, and then from all around the park, they just converged into the playground area,” Martin said of the local children. “That was the highlight for me.” 

The playground’s rubber mulch became a topic of conversation not long after the park opening.

“This product is from Liberty Tire Recycling,” said Catherine Vorrasi, Fernandina Beach Parks and Recreation Director, in a video online. “Extensive studies have been conducted, (saying) this product is safe. There’s no credible evidence that says this causes any type of illness.”

The city Parks office also has a recycled rubber information kit they’re willing to print out for whoever shows up for a copy.

Wes Wolfe

Wes Wolfe is a reporter who's worked for newspapers across the South, winning press association awards for his work in Georgia and the Carolinas. He lives in Jacksonville and previously covered state politics, environmental issues and courts for the News-Leader in Fernandina Beach. You can reach Wes at [email protected] and @WesWolfeFP. Facebook:


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