DUNEDIN — For decades, the war veterans memorial went virtually unnoticed despite its rather conspicuous location smack dab in the middle of a parking lot, likely surrounded by hundreds of cars weekly.
Now, city leaders have decided to finance its relocation from the Dunedin marina parking lot to a more "appropriate" locale at nearby Edgewater Park.
The $8,600 project is expected to be completed in time for Veterans Day in November.
"It's going to have a new home that's much more fitting," Mayor Dave Eggers said.
The memorial, which honors U.S. veterans of all wars, was surrounded by grass when it was built in 1970. According to Dutch Grubbs, commander of Dunedin Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2550, media reports outlined the painstaking six-year process of gathering the monument's stones, which are engraved with the names of the 50 states from which they originated.
But development over the years surrounded the marker with asphalt and parking for nearby restaurants and businesses. An accompanying flagpole "disappeared," Grubbs said.
He told city commissioners he didn't know the memorial existed until late last year. He found it in mid-December after a monthlong search and immediately noted its "crummy" condition, which called for landscaping, lights and a good pressure wash.
He was in the middle of a letter-writing campaign seeking help from other VFW commanders when the city contacted him about moving the memorial to a more suitable location, which officials say will improve visibility and access.
"It's not the most optimum location for showcasing it, for honoring our veterans, or even for safety," City Manager Rob DiSpirito told the City Commission last week. "We need to move this and put it in an appropriate place."
The monument will be moved 100 feet east into Edgewater Park, beside a flagpole near the marina's entrance.
The city will pull $5,000 from the Community Redevelopment Agency downtown parking improvement fund to pay a house-moving company to relocate the monument. The remaining $3,600 for a paver walkway and base, curbing and lighting will come from unspent Penny for Pinellas sidewalk dollars. City workers will assist with the project, which will also make way for two much-needed marina parking spaces.
Meanwhile, Grubbs will assist by contacting each state's VFW post about donations.
Officials will hold a re-dedication ceremony when the project is complete.
In other action at last week's City Commission meeting:
An ordinance banning BB guns on all public property won unanimous commission approval. The language ensures that citizens can still use the weapons for target practice on private property or as part of a city-supervised program.
The measure was passed in reaction to complaints this winter about a group of teens who used a pellet gun to kill two Muscovy ducks at a neighborhood lake for dinner, potentially endangering nearby homes and other wildlife. The law expanded on one that already made it unlawful to fire a slingshot, bow, sling or "similar device" within city limits.
Animal activists had urged the city to include other weapons like nail, dart and blow guns in its ban. However, City Attorney Tom Trask said he couldn't find case law to ensure the city wouldn't conflict with a new state law that threatens county and city officials with fines and removal from office if they attempt to enforce local gun ordinances.
Keyonna Summers can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4153. To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.