Chehaw Park opens but still recovering after Hurricane Michael

Chehaw Park opens but still recovering after Hurricane Michael


Chehaw Park, specially the Zoo, received major damage from Hurricane Michael, however, leaders said since then, they worked harder than ever to reopen portions of the park this weekend.

Chehaw leaders said 800 acres of land was destroyed by Hurricane Michael, just one week ago. Now they’re working harder than ever to get the park fully back up and running.

Snapped limbs and massive trees still reside on much of Chehaw's property after Hurricane Michael ripped through the area a week in a half ago.

“As you’re walking around the park, it’s astounding. There’s pavilions that have giant oak trees and pine trees on them. It’s really everywhere,” said Chris Wooland, park visitor.

“The winds really wreaked havoc here. I’ve been here 10 years, this is by far the worst that I’ve seen in any of the wind storms,” said Don Meeks, Executive Director of Chehaw Park.

A portion of Chehaw Park opened this weekend on a limited bases, but Executive Director Don Meeks, said it’ll be a long road to recovery.

“It’s going to be in hundreds of thousands of dollars to put the park back in at least the condition it was before the storm,” said Meeks.

Just last month, the zoo at Chehaw Park lost its accreditation by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums after inspectors said the park needed renovations and updates.

“Most of the areas that were technically a maintenance issue that was identified in the AZA inspection, have been completely destroyed at this point,” said Meeks.

Meeks said the zoo was hit the hardest and could take several months, up to a year to open fully.

Park leaders are currently working with the County and FEMA to receive disaster relief funds to rebuild the park, which brings happiness to a man who visited this weekend from Florida.

“It’s definitely going to be a recovery period but it seems like they’re already out and trying to be productive and getting things back to how it was,” said Wooland.

“We’ll rebuild them, instead of fix them. Which puts us in a better shape,” said Meeks.

Chehaw leaders said a FEMA representative will come out to assess the property and provide plans for the park. They also said local volunteers as well as organizations have been out cleaning the park to get it back up and running.

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