Sunday, May 11, 2014

#76 Chuck Hatcher (100 Great Things about Jackson County, Florida)

Chuck Hatcher
Photo courtesy of Patte Nettles Hatcher
This list consists primarily of places and stories, but the work Chuck Hatcher has done for our county is deserving of recognition. He is #76 on my list of 100 Great Things about Jackson County, Florida.

Click here to see the complete list as it is unveiled.

As Director of the Jackson County Parks & Recycling Department, Chuck Hatcher has supervised the most dramatic program of improvement of a local park system that I have ever seen. My career took me all around the country and I've seen great local parks and some that were not so great. Jackson County has always been blessed with beautiful scenery, but our park system has often fallen short of its potential. That has changed under Chuck's leadership and in a remarkable way.

Blue Springs
Blue Springs is the crown jewel of Jackson County's park system and under Chuck's leadership it has become a focal point for visitors from around the world. The agreement between the county and Cave Adventurers has turned Blue Springs into a major destination for divers and with his ability to write successful grant applications, Chuck has obtained the thousands of dollars in grant money needed to make Blue Springs a first class facility. Diving has become a major part of Jackson County's tourism effort and the visitors who come to take part are adding millions of dollars to the local economy each year.

If you haven't been lately, drop by after they reopen on Memorial Day weekend. The park is clean, nicely landscaped, the facilities have been dramatically improved, the summer employees are bright and energetic. You will find that under Hatcher's leadership, Blue Springs has become a world class park and attraction.

Chuck Hatcher at Bellamy Bridge
Chuck Hatcher has also been a leader in the effort to reopen historic Bellamy Bridge to the public. Through his own labors, those of his associates, inmates from the Jackson County Correctional Facility and volunteers, he supervised the building of the new Bellamy Bridge Heritage Trail, parking lot, fencing, informational kiosks and soon the much-needed footbridges. All of this was done without using a dime of property tax money.

Spring Creek Park, another facility that draws thousands of visitors from all over the region, features beautiful boardwalks, stunning views and a great launch facility for those who come to enjoy tubing, canoeing and kayaking on the cold clear waters of Spring Creek and the Chipola River.

Chuck Hatcher leading at lantern light tour at Bellamy Bridge
Other projects he has spearheaded include improving public access to Compass Lake, the dramatic improvement in maintenance for the parks along Lake Seminole, the development of Citizens Park into a major recreational and meeting facility for the people of Jackson County and more. Projects on the drawing board are equally exciting and will continue the progress that Jackson County has made in making clean, beautiful and safe recreation areas available for our citizens and visitors.

Sometimes our best citizens and public employees "fly below the radar" and do not receive the recognition they deserve. Chuck Hatcher and his employees have done more to improve life in Jackson County than anyone I know. In recognizing him I recognize them all as #76 on my list of the 100 Great Things about Jackson County, Florida.

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