The man who created a $1.1 million park in a built-out city didn’t live to see it dedicated Wednesday, but he was not forgotten.
Bob Harbin was battling throat cancer when he came out of retirement to head up Deerfield Beach’s parks department in 2009. He stepped in to fill large shoes, when grant-writing wizard Vince Kendrick retired, but Harbin during his tenure engineered a three-way land swap with the county, city and school board that made this park possible when it seemed anything but.
Harbin died earlier this year, but he was present in spirit at the dedication of Deerfield Beach’s newest athletic field on Thursday.
City crews groomed the red baseball diamond as 1,100 of 1,400 students at the adjacent Quiet Waters Elementary School, many dressed in red, white and blue to commemorate September 11, filed onto the school’s first and only athletic field to watch the dedication.
“Students, I know you are required to be here, but I’m glad you are -- because it is all about you,” said Commissioner Bill Ganz, in whose western district 4 the park lies. “My daughters were students here when we started this project and, now, they are in seventh and ninth grade. The only thing slower than a snail is three governmental agencies trying to work together…”
Getting them to work at all was Harbin’s gift to the city. The former director of Broward County’s park system, Harbin was in a unique position to elicit concessions from each of the three governmental entities involved in the deal. On Thursday, everything reflected Harbin's arbitration skills: from the glass-smooth grass and red clay that replaced tangled woodland carved from the county’s Quiet Waters Park, to the chain-link fence that defined the land as shared, now, by Quiet Waters Elementary School during the day, and by the city at night.
Eventually, $400,000 worth of lights will be erected in the nine cement pillars, facilitating night games in a city devoid of same.
“One person is not here today and his absence is glaring,” Ganz continued. “Bob Harbin served the residents of Broward County and Deerfield Beach for many decades here he is here with us in spirit…”
Then Coaches Jeff Kiene and Joe Alfonso lined up the first team to use the field. Students waited behind colored cones then scattered across the grass for a relay race.
“It looks good!" pronounced Eli Santiago, a fourth grader whose jersey proclaimed his loyalty to the Parkland Predators soccer team, explaining why he was eager to try it out for himself. He motioned in the direction of Coconut Creek. “We’ve been playing over there,” he said.
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