BROOKSVILLE — With the turn of a few shovels of dirt, a longtime dream by members of First United Methodist Church of Brooksville was launched this week that will turn an unused plot of land on Broad Street into a community gathering spot.
About three dozen people turned out Wednesday for the groundbreaking for Brooksville Common, a landscaped mini-park that will offer a place for people to gather for lunch, coffee or just to relax and meditate, said church member Dr. Gary Wilson, one of the principals behind the project.
"This is for the entire community to come and enjoy," Wilson said. "My hope is that people will find it a peaceful place to be and that they will want to come here often."
Sandwiched between the church's east parking lot and another parking lot next to Patricia's Boutique, the setting will feature its relationship with the church, with lighted stone tablets bearing the Ten Commandments and a Tree of Life metal sculpture by Brooksville artist James Oleson with "living water" flowing from its trunk. At the far end of the common, a covered pavilion and garden area will provide a venue for outdoor weddings, church services, concerts, festivals, block parties and other activities.
The idea to convert the vacant space into a community park was launched in 2009 by a committee of church leaders that included longtime Brooksville residents Dave Milliman, Joe Mason and Gene Manuel. Although a number of ideas were presented, everyone felt it would be best to focus on the site's historic past.
In 1914, the city's original First Presbyterian Church was built there and remained for nearly 40 years until the congregation relocated to Bell Avenue. For a time, the building housed Carlton's Meat Market. To commemorate the Presbyterian church, a memorial will be installed featuring a sketch drawn by the late Brooksville artist Lewis Watkins.
Wilson said that although First United Methodist provided seed money for the $180,000 project, most funding came from donations by church members and local businesses, and from the sale of memorial paving stones. The project also received a $10,000 community development grant from the city.
Wilson said that work on clearing the property is scheduled to begin within a week, and the park should be completed by December.
Logan Neill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1435.