Dan Witt Park to Reopen – New Community Center Named for John Trudel
New courts and fencing should be completed by the end of the year.
The City of Lighthouse Point is honoring John Trudel, who served as the Parks and Recreation Director of Lighthouse Point for over 40 years, by naming the newly-constructed community center at Dan Witt Park as the “John Trudel Community Center.”
The city commission, at its Oct. 25 meeting, passed a resolution to name the community center after Trudel, who became Lighthouse Point’s first paid full-time recreation director in 1974 and served until his retirement in 2015.
“It’s a great honor and I’m humbled by the thought of it being named after me,” said Trudel.
During his time as the city’s parks and recreation director, Trudel touched at least three generations of families in Lighthouse Point, and served under nine of the city’s 10 past mayors.
Commissioner Michael Long said that naming the community center after Trudel is “a perfect fit to recognize someone who has done as much as he has for our city, for our kids, for our parents, and for our residents in general.”
Long said Trudel is “an outstanding individual” who is representative of the city’s beginnings and truly made a difference in helping to shape the city into what it is today.
Trudel played an integral role in overseeing renovations to the city’s sports fields, local playgrounds, and the tennis center, as well as coordinating summer camp programs, youth athletics, concerts and other special events in the city’s parks.
He was also involved in starting the city’s annual Keeper Days celebration, Lighthouse A’Glow at Frank McDonough Park, and the Halloween party at Dan Witt Park, which he oversaw each year.
Trudel also oversaw the development of DeGroff Park and Exchange Club Park, both on the Intracoastal, and campaigned successfully to get lighting installed on the city’s athletic fields for evening games.
As a youth growing up in Lighthouse Point, Trudel became active in the city’s sports programs. At 14, he began working as a junior camp counselor with the city.
Trudel graduated from Florida Atlantic University (FAU), earning a degree in physical education. He had planned on teaching at a local high school, but the opportunity to become Lighthouse Point’s recreation director arose right after graduating. While attending FAU, Trudel worked part-time for the city’s recreation committee, which was headed by Dan Witt, whom Trudel considers his mentor.
When Trudel moved with his parents and three brothers to Lighthouse Point from New Hampshire in 1960, he first met Witt, their backyard neighbor. Trudel was eight years old; Witt was about 25 years his senior.
Witt oversaw all youth sports programs in Lighthouse Point at Frank McDonough Park, which at that time was known as Lake Placid Park and was the only park in the city. Trudel would go with Witt to the park to help him line the field before the games. When he was old enough, Trudel started playing tackle football for the Lighthouse Point Buccaneers, coached by Witt. Witt was considered the first recreation director of Lighthouse Point but served as a volunteer.
Trudel said having a community center named in his honor in a park named after Dan Witt has special meaning. In addition, the main scoreboard at the park is named for Tom Richow, who grew up in Lighthouse Point, and was one of Trudel’s closest friends. Richow was a Lighthouse Point detective sergeant and, outside of his police duties, helped Trudel with many recreation programs.
“It’s an honor to have my name in the same vicinity as those two people,” said Trudel.
Trudel married his wife Debbie in 1975, and they raised their son and three daughters in Lighthouse Point. Trudel said Dan Witt Park is where his kids grew up because he would often bring them to work with him.
A treasure to the city
The initiative to name the new community center after Trudel was brought forward by Lighthouse Point resident Ron Choquette. Under a naming rights policy adopted by the city commission in June, an interested party can request the naming of city-owned property. The approval of the request is contingent upon meeting certain criteria and following the procedures outlined in the policy.
As required, Choquette submitted a narrative, as well as a petition with 50 signatures from residents supporting the naming request. The city administrator reviewed the request and forwarded it to the city commission. At the city commission meeting on Oct. 11, input from the public was given, and after discussion, the commission decided to approve the request.
In his request letter, Choquette said Trudel “is a treasure to the City of Lighthouse Point” and “helped grow the wonderful youth sports programs that the residents still enjoy today.”
“He is a part of the city’s history, one of the many threads that bind our community together, having served it for so many years,” said Choquette.
Since his retirement, Trudel has remained active in the community, still visiting city parks and volunteering his time to the department. He currently serves on the cultural arts committee, which oversees Keeper Days Weekend, Lighthouse A’Glow, the annual easter egg hunt and Halloween party, concerts in the park and other events.
Trudel was named a Lighthouse Point Keeper in 2015.
NEW COMMUNITY CENTER - FULL OPENING EXPECTED soon
The new community center at Dan Witt Park hasn’t yet fully opened to the public. It received a temporary certificate of occupancy this summer, which allowed the parks and recreation department to move into its new offices and hold summer camp there. Since then, the community center has continued to operate on a limited basis.
According to parks and recreation director Becky Word, the community center is expected to get a full certificate of occupancy the week of Nov. 14. Kaufmann Lynn Construction – the construction manager of the city’s bond projects – has been addressing final items that need to be completed before project closeout.
Dan Witt Park and the community center are expected to be fully open in January, or possibly sooner. The new pickleball and basketball courts that are being installed just north of the community center need to be completed first. The courts are anticipated to be completed by the end of the year, said Word. New fencing will also be installed.
Trudel noted that Dan Witt Park turned 50 years old this year. The dedication ceremony was in April 1972.
“It’s nice to have Becky Word and her staff at the helm of a beautiful new community center that will take us into the next 50 years,” he said.
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