BOCC approves enhancements to Veterans Park

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Posted September 10, 2022 | By Belea T. Keeney
belea@magnoliamediaco.com

The Marion County Board of County Commissioners approved proposed enhancements to the Ocala-Marion County Veterans Memorial Park in its Sept. 7 meeting, with new features designed to honor local veterans as far back at the Seminole Indian War.

Commissioners suggested some improvements themselves, primarily how to get more shade for visitors, especially during events held in the hot summer months. The presentation by Marion County Parks and Recreation Director Jim Couillard highlighted new monuments at the park, located at 2601 E Fort King St., at the corners of Fort King, SE 25th Ave. and State Road 40. The park is free and open to the public.

The plan shows more memorial wall space on the south end, a new memorial wall on the north side of the park and a new gate on the current pavilion to feature the emblems of the military branches. Several new monuments are proposed, including a kneeling soldier, a fallen soldier, one for aviation, the Korean War, and Fort King soldier monuments.

“This is a reflection to our first veterans here in Marion County. We worked closely with the Fort King Foundation on the development of that memorial,” Couillard said. The department also commended the input and assistance of the Friends of Marion County Veterans Park Foundation, and the Marion County Veterans Council.

New park features include a donor recognition wall, renovation of the 50 Flags display, a meditation pavilion and sign improvements.

Couillard said much of the funding for the park improvements will come from the Veterans Park Foundation.

Commissioner Kathy Bryant suggested offering tree sponsorships to help fund more shade for the park. Commission Chair Carl Zalak encouraged the foundation to also consider ways to add more shade for park patrons.

“Every event I go to, especially in the summer months … we set up the bleachers in the middle of the sun,” he said. “We need to be able to add temporary shade, put bleachers up with temporary cover or some other solution.” Zalak expressed a desire to make park events more comfortable and present a nicer place for attendees. “We need to create an (better) environment when people come to celebrate those things,” he said.

Zalak noted that many of the park’s official activities–such as Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and Sept. 11 remembrance events–take place during the hottest months. Among the suggestions from commissioners were fans, windsails and mobile bleachers with attached cantilevers.

“I think (the park) is wonderful,’’ he said. “We’d like to see more participation. We want to celebrate our veterans and get younger people to honor them.”