Landscape foundation founder speaks at annual Memorial Park meeting

Landscape foundation founder speaks at annual Memorial Park meeting
Ornamental fencing in the process of being removed for replacement on the perimeter of Memorial Park.

The Memorial Park Association held its annual meeting Jan. 23 at the Haskell Building where guest speaker Charles A. Birnbaum, President, CEO, and founder of The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF), gave a witty yet thought-provoking presentation to over 120 attendees on the goal to change the way the association looks at landscaping and how they might measure success as it embarks on the next phase of restoration.

Birnbaum spoke of his tendency to “poke the bear” when he toured Memorial Park earlier in the day with members of the association, challenging them to consider what might constitute an enhancement to park while keeping within its heritage as a commemorative landscape.

One of Birnbaum’s major projects is the web-based initiative What’s Out There (a searchable database of the nation’s designed landscape heritage). Three sites in Jacksonville are listed in the database: Memorial Park, The Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens, and the 1925 San Jose Estates.

A reception was held following the meeting, where park supporters had an opportunity to meet Birnbaum.

Two new board members – Mary Jarrett and the Rev. Dr. Canon J. Allison DeFoor – were welcomed at the reception. While Paula Skitsko steps down from the board, all other officers and board members remain.

Mary Jarrett and the Rev. Canon Allison DeFoor are the two newest members of the Memorial Park Association board.

Mary Jarrett and the Rev. Canon Allison DeFoor are the two newest members of the Memorial Park Association board.

Park projects underway

In Phase II of the park’s major restoration project, restoration of the planting beds parallel to Riverside Avenue and the entry beds at Memorial Park Drive and Margaret Street began in January. Many of the plants will be reused in new locations; some of the azaleas have historic significance and the same varieties were used in the garden at the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens.

Refurbishment to the entrances at Margaret Street and Memorial Park Drive are taking place concurrently with restoration to the plant beds.

Through the generosity of the Haskell Company, Restoration Landscape Architect Eric Lycke worked tirelessly and donated his time in the design of the new perimeter fence, which will be funded by the City of Jacksonville. The remainder of Phase II, with estimated costs at around $125,000, will be supported through private donations made to the Memorial Park Association.

The City awarded the bid for the perimeter fencing to Southeastern Ornamental Iron, who began removing the existing fence in early January; the new fence will be installed thereafter. The new perimeter fence will stop before the entrances on the river side of Memorial Park Drive and Margaret Streets, allowing for more flexibility in the design of those new entrances to the park and for hurricane clean-up and repair to be easily done.

This phase of the project should be completed by spring.

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