Veterans Memorial moving to Oceanfront Park

The Veterans Memorial will be moved from its existing location at the corner of Beach Boulevard and Second Street to the Oceanfront Park in Jacksonville Beach. City staff was asked to explore relocation of the memorial to a site that offered more opportunity for reverence.
City officials narrowed the options to three locations: Oceanfront Park and two locations within the History Park at the Beaches Museum, one at the west end, the other at the central section of the property.
“We discussed the possibility of relocating the Veterans Memorial currently located at the intersection of Beach and Second. That location obviously is a little bit tight and it’s at a premiere downtown intersection which makes having any events at that location very restricted,” said City Manager Mike Staffopoulos.
“Staff from Parks and Recreation proposed multiple locations and the direction from council was to do a little more of the due diligence for two sites in particular, the Oceanfront Park and History Park at Beaches Museum.”
Trevor Hughes of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department presented the concept final three options which were designed in-house. All cost projections are based on the designs and include restoration of the current site.
The Oceanfront Park concept removes the existing half circle of pavers and the partial walkway to maximize space. Staff would try and reuse as many of the pavers as possible and re-landscape with durable, salt-tolerant plants for easy maintenance.
“We think this park would give us a great opportunity. Obviously, it has the large green space, great parking and just great views of the ocean,” said Hughes.
The northeast corner of Oceanfront Park offers the most serene environment with views of the ocean, and ample green space and parking. The projected cost, including contingency, for this location is about $61,800.
At the Beaches History Museum, the central portion of the museum property has its own small Veterans Memorial with a flag pole. The memorial was installed in 1982 as a result of the efforts of a local Boy Scout. Relocating the Veterans Memorial to this site would be a fitting enhancement to the existing monument.
“There’s a really a cool story behind this one. Back in 1982, David Moredock was a Boy Scout and he took this on and created it to be the Veterans Memorial. For whatever reason it never got officially stamped as that, but that was the intent,” said Hughes. “Because there’s already some pavers here and a flag pole, this gives us the opportunity to do it the cheapest. We would enhance the landscape and we think it would be a really cool spot for it.”
While it offers limited space for large gatherings, the site has sufficient street parking on the north end of the property. This location affords the lowest cost at about $42,000 as it does not require the addition of concrete, pavers or flag pole.
The west end of the museum property has a wedge-shaped area that provides a unique layout for landscaping, including a meandering walking path and benches for seating. Projected cost, including contingency, for this location is approximately $69,250.
“It gives it a unique garden feel,” Hughes said. “There's an existing gate here from the side, and center the flag pole and add the sidewalk. We think it would be a really cool area. We feel very confident with the bids and think these are all attainable numbers.”
Mayor Pro-Tem Chris Hoffman made a motion to relocate the memorial to the central site at Beaches Museum, where she also serves as executive director. She said the decision would not benefit the organization but would be an asset for people to learn about history on the free docent-guided tours.
“We’re able to provide some context. What do they mean and what do they represent?” she said.
Hoffman’s motion to move the Veterans Memorial to the Beaches Museum failed. Councilman Cory Nichols proposed a motion to table the decision to allow a review of other locations, specifically Gonzalez Park which was included in the original sites identified by city staff, but it was not selected as a suitable location. The motion failed 4-2. Councilor Georgette Dumont made a motion to move to Oceanfront Park, which passed 5-1 with Cory Nichols casting the only dissenting vote.
Resident Ken Marsh urged the council to bring the issue to the veterans in the community.
“That is what this memorial is all about. It’s a tribute to our veterans and the families of our veterans. If we haven’t reached out to those people for what they want, I think we should table it. It’s not an issue of urgency, but I think it’s extremely valuable that we understand where they wish to honor the veterans. All I’m asking is if we’ve done our due diligence and gotten some feedback from a fairly robust group of veterans and families of veterans and the community, then simply do what they want to do. You’ve got three viable options there.”
Councilor Sandy Golding said she discussed the project with members of VFW Post 3270 who “were in complete concurrence that the oceanfront park was the preferred location” because of the opportunity for such events as an annual wreath laying ceremony, proximity to the beach, parking and restroom facilities.
“Given the feedback that we’ve got from the veterans group, my preference is going to be the Oceanfront Park because I respect what their preference is,” she said.
Resident Collette Sellers said the Oceanfront Park would be an ideal site to honor veterans by creating a circle with the plaques and flags of our six services.
“I think we should choose this park that features an inspiring site for reflection with the balmy ocean breezes to remember those men and women who protected our freedom,” she said.
Councilor Keith Doherty said while the Beaches Museum provides a good opportunity for students to learn about the nation’s history, he would support the move to the Oceanfront Park though he worried that the Oceanfront Park would be too “rowdy” in summer months with overcrowded parking during the peak season. However, any change from the current location would be an improvement, he said.
“This has been something that I’ve talked to several veterans about through the years. I think we can all agree that our current memorial is verging on disrespectful because of its location and the care of it. The light is out half the time and there’s been vandalism. It’s almost inaccessible for people to park close by and for people with disabilities to get there,” he said.
Doherty proposed dedicating the new memorial site to former Jacksonville Beach resident Gunnery Sgt. Benjamin Chitko, who died in Vietnam in 1967 leaving behind four children. Two of his kids still live in Jacksonville Beach.
“He paid the ultimate sacrifice and I think his family are deeply rooted in our community. I think it’s a sad issue but when it comes to naming rights, Id like us to discuss that. Both locations are very nice, the tranquility and accessibility of the oceanfront park does have its merits. I would be worried about vandalism,” he said. “There is a fence around the Beaches Museum so it’s more secure. Museum central would be my preference. It’s almost $20,000 less than the oceanfront park. I will be happy anywhere it goes. I’m just glad we’re talking about this.”
The relocation of the Veterans Memorial was not budgeted in FY 2020. Funding will be provided from the General Fund Unanticipated. Upgrades to the current location will include replacing the memorial with palms to match the existing landscape and the addition bike racks if there is space.