Veterans Memorial Park expands


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THIS PHOTO AND THE HEADER IMAGE COURTESY OF ROGER SCRUGGS

One of the area’s most unique facilities will soon become even more singular as Brevard’s Veterans Memorial Park expands this year. The $1.5 million project, made possible through funds from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, will double the size of the park’s 4,000-square-foot Brevard Veterans Memorial Center building, located within the 80-acre park just south of Merritt Square Mall on Merritt Island. Completion is anticipated by June 2016.

The partnership between Brevard County and the Veterans Memorial Center, which serves former and present members of the military and their families, provides for a multi-use facility that impacts veterans and the community at large, as well as to local businesses, with environmental, economic and recreational opportunities.

Veterans Memorial Park is a place where people come to remember the sacrifices made by America’s soldiers. It is also a place where families can play and enjoy their freedom. 

“This facility serves many purposes,” said Brevard County Parks and Recreation director Jack Masson.

In a prime location by scenic Sykes Creek, the riverfront park houses a Veterans Memorial Museum, a memorial garden with paths, a 335-foot lighted boardwalk and benches along the waterfront. Within the museum are historical artifacts, from flags and cannonballs to tanks and a helicopter. They represent every military conflict in which American blood has been spilled. 

The museum is more than a museum; it is also a community meeting place for patriotic events and other special functions, a space where game and exercise groups get together and where organizations such as the Disabled American Veterans Chapter 123 meet to help veterans needing assistance with benefits.

The park’s expansion will allow for plenty of additional breathing room for the museum and its military library. Currently, the museum has space to display only approximately half of its collection. 

The project also includes enhancement to the outdoor spaces with the addition of military monuments, trails that include one with accessibility for people with disabilities, a playground, an educational kiosk, a wildlife observation platform overlooking the 22-acre stormwater pond, a picnic pavilion and a launching area for canoes, kayaks and other non-motorized watercraft.

The large pond benefits the environment by filtering stormwater from surrounding areas before it reaches the Indian River Lagoon. For local business, the pond also offers the opportunity for expansion, because if companies buy into the stormwater system to treat runoff from their properties, they are no longer required to have their own large retention ponds, which sometimes eat up as much as 25 percent of properties.

The story of Veterans Memorial Park began in 1991, initiated by former Veterans Council chairman Maurice Meisner and County Commissioner Chuck Nelson. Veterans continue to lead the effort in the development of the park. For example, veterans will paint the expanded building at a savings of $50,000. Private donations, many of them from veterans, have allowed for purchases of display cabinets and other furnishings. 

“This is truly a park that benefits the entire community,” Masson said. 

Veterans Memorial Park is at 400 S. Sykes Creek Parkway in Merritt Island. The park is open from 7 a.m. until dark, except for scheduled use. Admission is free.

For more information, call 321-633-1874.