Since the devastating April 2014 floods that left a great deal of Pensacola underwater, Veterans Memorial Park has endured flooding issues with every heavy rainfall.
But since being named one of IMPACT 100’s community enrichment project grant recipients, the park will receive much-needed repairs and improvements in the near future.
“We were one of three finalists in the environment, recreation and preservation (category),” said Butch Hansen, Veterans Memorial Park Foundation president. “This was the first grant we’ve applied for and we’re excited about the project.”
Members of IMPACT 100 Pensacola Bay Area, an all-female philanthropy group, each donate $1,000 to fund local projects every year. This year, the organization has 1,060 members and presented 10 $106,000 grants to winners in five designated categories.
“We’re meeting with the architects next week and our goal is to get it done by Memorial Day,” Hansen said. “We’re excited we’ll have a facility that will provide much better access for our aging veterans, and handicapped veterans, and those in wheelchairs.”
The stormwater infrastructure has been the foundation’s main concern, as was stated in the grant application, and the park lacks a stage and reliable seating area to accommodate larger public events.
Hansen said the Foundation has been working with Pensacola’s STOA Architects, which has come up with a design that will not only repair the park’s drainage problem but add a raised grass stage area and replace wall lights damaged by rising rainwater.
“Right now, the park isn’t adequate when we have heavy rainstorms,” Hansen said. “(STOA) designed a very unique and wonderful solution that will help the drainage down at the low point of the park at the wall.”
Michael Moore, senior designer at STOA Architects, said it’s more of an issue with the city’s infrastructure than with the park.
“The way the drainage is set up now, it’s supposed to drain out into the bay,” Moore said. “The problem is that there’s a main line that runs out through there that’s trying to drain water everywhere north of the bay and it’s at max capacity.”
Moore said the firm will take care of installing an impervious paving system with a plastic ADA-compliant grid in the ground, making it more structurally sound. They will also add a raised and more defined grass stage area and remove any broken lights from the wall due to previous flooding.
“It’s not going to look a whole lot different because our biggest goal as designers was to not take away from the purpose of the park, particularly the wall,” Moore said. “We’ll put in a new pump and grinder and re-sod the area as well.”
During the flood, water rose more than half way up the wall, Hansen said. The park was basically a lake. With heavy rains, the area won’t drain fast enough, resulting in higher maintenance fees for the Foundation. Also, the area stays soggy for long periods of time.
The grant from IMPACT 100 will improve ongoing maintenance and preservation efforts, highlighted by the Foundation, and provide a reliable and accessible venue to honor the sacrifice of those memorialized at the park.
“This new plan will be much better, especially for handicapped veterans,” he said. “It will be a more solid area down there for those with wheelchairs, walkers and canes.”