As soon as I heard the name for the first time I had to go to Blue Jacket Park. There has to be a story behind that and besides, the park is big and beautiful in a vibrant neighborhood in Orlando, FL on the Winter Park border. Blue Jacket Park encompasses 75 acres squeezed into a long rectangular strip of land with stately stone features work giving it it’s distinctive charm.
First off, running is the motivation behind the trip to the park and the results are not disappointing. A circular, paved path winds through the perimeter of the park around a big bright fountain, past athletic fields and around several gigantic, grass-covered fields.
Blue Jacket Park features the Taj Mahal of public restrooms. It looks like a cross between the Lincoln Memorial and the Parthenon, and all it contains are two restrooms and a drinking fountain. As little function as it actually serves in the big picture it creates the entire identity of the park with it’s finely crafted stonework and varying shades of white and tan.
While the restroom may paint the image, the water fountain is the centerpiece. Covering more than an acre, the fountain and surrounding stonework provide an opulent setting in what is otherwise an athletic park. On a sunny day the fountain and its brightly colored stone and masonry shimmer, and with the acres and acres of flat, open grass fields behind it with more stone work in the distance, it is quite an image.
For a runner the park is ideal in that it has a long enough track around it (about a mile) bordered by a flat grass field with no shrubbery. Even if the track gets crowded there’s plenty of room to create one’s own passing lanes. And if it’s a grass track that is desired to take a bit of the beating off the feet, Blue Jacket Park is the ideal setting.
Another convenient feature of the park is that it borders the Baldwin Park Trail near the shops and restaurants. Just a quarter mile away and one is steeped in the center of dozens of places to shop, dine, sit or take in the sites. The Cady Way Trail is also nearby.
As with the Baldwin Park Trail, Blue Jacket Park presents a setting for a wide variety of exercise, whether it’s walking the dog, playing Frisbee or running short or long distances. It’s an excellent place to meet for a long distance run through multiple parks with plenty of parking and the Taj Mahal restroom facility. The one thing Blue Jacket Park does not offer is a bike trail. The walking/running trail is just wide enough for two people but not so for a bicycle or in-line skating. Traffic can be congested at rush hour and after school but otherwise the roads are pretty tame. The speed limits are slow enough to keep it fairly safe.
There are some tables and a couple shade areas near the parking lot available but this is a park for sun worshippers. If you don’t like it bright this isn’t the place to go. The park is very well maintained, well lit at night and the atmosphere is active and seemingly safe. There aren’t too many places to hide here so almost anything going on at Blue Jacket Park is visible to anyone near the area, and usually lots of people.
On any given afternoon one will see a number of exercise classes in progress in the park out on the grass. It is also connected to the playing fields for Audubon Park Elementary School so there is always activity during weekdays.
Those lucky enough to catch a sunrise at Blue Jacket Park should consider themselves lucky for having made the trip.
The park is located at 2501 General Rees Ave. in Winter Park (28.5763° N 81.3396° W) not too far from Fashion Square Mall on Colonial Dr. Hours are 6 am to 11 pm. Call 407-246-2283 for more information.
Incidentally, the name Blue Jacket Park (dedicated in 2000) comes from the fact that the park is on the property that was formerly the site of the Orlando Naval Training Center. The people of the Navy were very visible around town years ago and known as the “blue jackets.” A nice tribute to these men and women and a great name by which to remember a park.