Sandra Marriffino along with many friends of her late husband, Paul Marriffino, gathered Nov. 17 at Blue Run of Dunnellon Park to install a memorial park bench and remember Paul Marriffino, who was a skilled and beloved parks advocate in Dunnellon. Around 30 friends of Marriffino attended.

Marriffino was involved in every aspect in the creation of Blue Run Park, said Bill Vibbert, who was Marriffino’s friend and worked closely with him on Blue Run Park’s creation.

Marriffino helped assemble partnerships between Marion County, The Trust for Public Land (TPL), Dunnellon, and Rainbow River Conservation (RRC) in 2008. He partnered with TPL and RRC staff to write the $3.2 million Florida Communities Trust purchase grant and the Blue Run Park Management Plan. Paul also wrote the $300,000 grant from the Southwest Florida Water Management District that funded the parking lot, stormwater management plan and the kayak ramp at the Park.

Marion County Recreation and Parks Director Jim Couillard was the park design leader and worked closely with Marriffino, who loved sitting on a park bench and talking with visitors and said Blue Run Park was his most important project.

“We both loved watching the new alligators in the pond, turtle heads bobbing up and down, the sound of wood ducks startled by an intruder, and watching the great egret stalk prey along the stream that flowed from the pond,” Sandra Marraffino said.

Marion County, Dunnellon, Rainbow River Conservation, and friends partnered with Dunnellon mayor Bill White and Public Works Supervisor Troy Slattery and a Public Works crew to install a custom bald cypress bench constructed by Hank Norwell. The bench location was selected by Marriffino’s granddaughter, Abigail Marriffino.

“Paul’s contributions will be enjoyed by park visitors for many years to come,” Vibbert said.

Marraffino’s efforts to advocate for Dunnellon’s parks continued until his death last year, as he helped the Nine Island Cove property along the Withlacoochee River in southwest Dunnellon get placed on the Florida Forever list.

“We can only wish that someday this park will become a reality for Dunnellon,” Sandra Marraffino said in a letter thanking everyone who contributed to the memorial park bench and other projects with Paul Marraffino, and those who were friends with her husband.

“He felt a city could never have too many parks, and if this park were obtained, a possible dock at the bottom would allow residents to sit and just enjoy the river view or perhaps fish and maybe put in a kayak from the cove,” Marrafffino said.

“I miss him greatly,” she added, “and am so proud of all the work he accomplished here, his ability to relate to so many different people, his computer and map skills, his even manner, and his pride and love for our (family).”

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