Community rallies for landmark, plans underway for Memorial Park

Community rallies for landmark, plans underway for Memorial Park

Six months after Memorial Park re-opened following drainage and irrigation upgrades and installation of a new center lawn, Hurricane Irma swept through on Sept. 11, leaving downed branches all over the expansive greenspace and along the walkways.

The park only lost one or two large trees, according to Michele Luthin, Memorial Park Association communications director. “The tree canopy was trimmed last year, so I think this helped lessen the damage.”

Two days after the storm, about 100 volunteers came out to clean up the historic park, working from 8 a.m. until nearly 7 p.m., and again on Sept. 16, resulting in almost 175 bags of debris.

The Garden House, which MPA recently painted inside and out, had about two feet of water in it. Percy Rosenbloom, MPA president, Karen McCombs, vice president, and Luthin scooped up the muck and then pressure washed it.

Many of the light posts that were recently restored have been damaged.

While the flood damaged the park’s lawn and marble benches, the water did not damage the park’s most iconic feature, the “Spiritualized Life” bronze statue.
The most significant damage, however, was to the historic concrete balustrades which grace the seawall behind the statue. Memorial Park Association plans to repair the balustrades and re-install them and has contacted the Ohio company which repaired the fountain last year.

“Volunteers helped to move the balustrades to a central location; we want park visitors to realize that the city plans to reuse them,” said Luthin. “The city is stacking the balustrade on pallets, wrapping and then taking them to a place to store them until they can be repaired. The bulkhead is being evaluated to see if it was compromised, so we hope the balustrades can be repaired, then used to rebuild the wall.”

Public safety is the City of Jacksonville’s first priority, said Luthin. “They have been great during this process, incredibly responsive, and are going to put up a temporary fence in the coming days. The fence will be user-friendly for the fishermen, but will encourage people to stay back so no one falls into the river.”

Funding recovery

The response to raise funds for the recovery and ongoing restoration of the park was almost as immediate as the volunteer efforts to clean it up.

Mark Krancer, of Riverside, captured an image of the statue in Memorial Park during the storm. He has created a first batch of prints with 50 percent of the proceeds to benefit the park.

Due to high demand, email contact info to [email protected] to get on the list for ordering prints and help restore the park that has welcomed residents for decades. Metal and canvas prints will become available in next couple of months once print vendors are recovered from the storm as well.

Following the receding of the river, Krancer went back to shoot photos of the destruction.

“When I saw the balustrades demolished later that day, a profound sadness overcame me,” said Krancer. “My first date with my fiancée was in this park along those balustrades, which have been there since shortly after World War I. Something tells me you can’t exactly pick one of these up at Home Depot.”

5 Points Candle has also created a Memorial Park candle in honor of Memorial Park and, along with Mancanics, will contribute 20 percent of all sales from the Sept. 16 Riverside Arts Market to the relief efforts of the neighborhood. Other vendors at RAM, such as Bisbee + Yuma and Still Life With Cat Studio, also donated portions of their sales to the park restoration efforts.

The Memorial Park Association is also in the process of organizing a grassroots fundraising initiative for those who want to help contribute to the park’s restoration following Hurricane Irma. More information can be found at www.memparkjax.org.


By Kate A. Hallock
Resident Community News

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