It was the attire attorney Steve Pajcic and his brother, Gary, wore as teens during the hot days at Woodstock Park, playing sports and passing the time.
They spent so much time at the Westside facility they were dubbed “park rats” — a term Pajcic thought was a positive.
Back then, he said, there were supervisors on hand to ensure safety during activities, organized or not. The brothers would go on to college, Gary playing quarterback at Florida State University, before coming home to open their law firm, swapping the jeans for slacks and basketball courts for courtrooms.
“It all started here,” Pajcic said Monday.
Now, children and teens that frequent Woodstock Park and 10 others in the urban core will have adult supervision this summer with Pajcic’s help.
With Pajcic holding a basketball, Mayor Alvin Brown on Monday announced the attorney had donated $50,000 for a pilot program dubbed “Rec ‘N Roll Jax.” It will provide funds for nine temporary staffers in those parks for eight weeks starting June 23.
As part of the program, two retired Jacksonville Fire & Rescue Department ambulances will be converted into mobile recreation vehicles to transport staff and recreation equipment to four of the parks that will be staffed a half day each weekday. The other seven parks will be staffed full time on weekdays.
Pajcic said as much as people talk about taking Jacksonville to the next level, it was time to return to the past in this case. His main motivation was to provide children a place where they can hang out in a safe environment, like he did when he was young.
“Let’s do for our children what we used to do for them,” he said.
Brown lauded the move, calling it the “ultimate public-private partnership” that would help deter crime in an area that’s seen rises. The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office started its Operation Ceasefire program to stop gun-related violence in the area.
The supervision and activities, Brown said, will help keep children and teens safe while also keeping them active
during summer months when crime rates tend to rise.
Brown said he pursued the opportunity with Pajcic and heard from Edward Waters College President Nat Glover, a former sheriff, about the importance of having such a program.
Glover, along with City Council members Johnny Gaffney, Reggie Brown and Jim Love, were all on hand to talk about the benefits.
Pajcic said he will continue to support the initiative every year the city is willing.
The parks where the additional staff will be hired are: Carvill Park, Charles Clark Park, Grunthal Park, Julius Guinyard Park and Pool, Panama Park, Pine Forest Park, Scott Park, Tallulah Park, Johnnie W. Walker Park, Willowbranch Park and Woodstock Park.
As for the park where he spent his youth, Pajcic said it has held up and even improved.
“This park is still as good as it ever was,” he said.
Now, others should be able to experience like he once did.
No shirts, no shoes, just jeans.