Building a Pocket Park in Marianna, Florida (Part 1)

In this special two-part episode of Today’s Homeowner, we’re building a pocket park in Marianna, Florida, my hometown.

In October of 2018, Hurricane Michael hit the Florida Panhandle, reducing many homes and businesses in Marianna to rubble. Among them was one on Lafayette Street in the historic town square, which people pass every day.

This eyesore was a bad reminder of a bad time, and my buddy Paul Donofro, a second-generation architect, had a plan to replace it.

“Today’s Homeowner” hosts Danny Lipford and Chelsea Lipford Wolf, standing at a pocket park in Marianna, Florida
This cleared lot in Marianna, Florida will soon become a pocket park.

About Pocket Parks

Empty lots between two buildings and backed by another building, resembling a pocket, often are converted into parks, hence the name.

Pocket parks provide a public place for entertainment, picnics and recreation, and the one Paul planned will replace a constant reminder of Hurricane Michael’s devastation.   

We learned about Paul’s plans and wanted to help out, providing construction and media resources, and organizing volunteers. So now, we’re building Lafayette Landing Park in downtown Marianna.

And we’re bringing hope to my hometown.

1920s mural featuring Wrigley's New Peppermint Gum and an ad for United Profit Sharing coupons
The mural on this masonry dates back to the early 20th century.

A Historic Mural

Before we begin work on the pocket park, we check out the area. Hurricane Michael reduced much of this building to trash, but there is one treasure: Workers uncovered a historic mural behind the building’s stucco walls.

The mural, which appears on the adjacent building’s masonry, features an ad for Wrigley’s Doublemint chewing gum. The text says, “The New Peppermint Gum, Wrapped in United Profit Sharing Coupons.”

Early in the 20th century, Wrigley’s was one of many businesses that worked with the United Profit Sharing Corporation to reward customers for purchases. If you bought a pack of chewing gum, you received coupons redeemable for other products.

Though this is similar to accumulating points and redeeming them for goods and services, the mural marks a bygone era — and this piece of history is going nowhere.

So, workers sealed the surface to preserve it for generations to come.

Oversized wood planters at a pocket park in Marianna, Florida

Building the Planters

On day one of our pocket park project, we have plenty of volunteers setting fence posts, pouring concrete, repairing the old slab, and chipping up old floor tiles.  

My long-time buddy, Victor Vickery, works with Marianna High School students to coordinate the construction of six large planters that will frame the park. The students built these oversize planters in just one week, and they look great.  

Roofing underlayment, as seen applied inside the walls of a planter built from pressure-treated wood
We used roofing underlayment to protect the wood planters’ pressure-treated wood from dirt and moisture.

Protecting the Planters

Next, we anchor the planters to the pocket park’s concrete slab, and then prep them for dirt. Each planter’s wood was pressure-treated and stained, but we’re adding extra protection.

That comes in the form of peel-and-stick underlayment inside the planter’s walls; this ice-and-water shield usually is placed under asphalt shingles. It’s perfect, in this case, for holding in dirt and moisture and protecting the wood.

Victor’s wife, Theresa, is in charge of all the planting, so she gets busy moving dirt into the planters.

A construction crew builds a stage at Lafayette Landing Park in Marianna, Florida
Andrew, a long-time employee at Danny’s construction company, helps construct the pocket park’s stage.

Building the Fence and Stage

Chelsea, Bear and I couldn’t tackle this pocket park project without local volunteers, including Jackson County 4-H members, Future Farmers of America and Marianna Middle School students.  

I also brought some help with me to build the stage and the fence behind it. Andrew Powell is a carpenter in my construction company, and he’s just the man to get this job done right.

Marianna Middle School students apply landscape adhesive to Pavestone blocks in Florida
Marianna Middle School students apply landscape adhesive to Pavestone blocks.

Installing Blocks

We’re setting posts for the pocket park’s entryway and cutting trenches into the concrete so we can irrigate all the planters, including the ones we’re building with a mountain of Pavestone blocks.

We use Titebond PROvantage Landscape Construction Adhesive to glue the blocks together and we teach the students how to burp glue.

Burping means applying landscape glue to a block, placing another block on top, and lifting the top block up and down, repeatedly. This spreads the glue on both blocks, introduces air, and provides better adhesion.

Next, we start moving blocks to the center of the space to build the planter that will be the focal point when people enter the park.

This thing is massive, but it goes together quickly with all of these helping hands.

After we fill it with soil, the day is complete.

Stay tuned! This is part one of our two-part “Hope for a Hometown” series.
Also, thanks to these people and partners for their contributions:

Special Thanks:

  • Quikrete
  • Pavestone
  • Titebond
  • The Home Depot
  • Donofro & Associates
  • Rex Lumber
  • Jim Roberts Realty
  • Enviva
  • Dbi Services
  • Southern Lumber
  • Lightning Graphics, Inc.
  • Bagget Farms
  • Hancock Whitney Bank
  • Microtel Inn & Suites by Wyndham Marianna

Key Players:

  • Victor Vickery, Construction Coordinator
  • Paul Donofro, Jr., Design
  • Mickey Gilmore, Onsite Coordinator
  • Theresa Vickery, Landscaping
  • Patty Hoff Kite, Volunteer Coordinator
  • Rick Wimberly, Construction Equipment
  • Tiffany Garling, Jackson County Chamber of Commerce
  • Meghan Holley, Main Street Marianna
  • Jim Dean, City of Marianna
  • Over 100 fantastic volunteers from all over Jackson County, Florida
  • Chipola College Building Technology Program
  • Jackson County Schools Building Program
  • Jackson County FFA & 4H Clubs
  • And the Roberts family for making this property available for this special project

Other Tips From This Episode

A yard stick, a pencil compass and a piece of wood, as seen in the Simple Solutions segment on Today's Homeowner TV
Simple Solutions

This Lifehack Makes Drawing Circles Easy for Woodworkers
Best New Product
This Incredible Spacer Fixes Flimsy Wall Plates

Hope for a Hometown logo

Read more about our “Hope for a Hometown” series — with exclusive articles, videos and a photo gallery from this special project.


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