Wednesday, November 22, 2017
News Roundup

Park Boulevard may become the latest memorial to Bill Young

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The road, one of the county's few east-west corridors, goes by many names.

To Florida transportation officials, it's State Road 694. To locals, the portion east of U.S. 19 is known as Gandy Boulevard. West of 19, it's Park Boulevard.

Soon, it could have a fourth name: Congressman C.W. Bill Young Memorial Highway.

The idea to name the roadway after the longtime congressman was the brainchild of Pinellas Park Mayor Sandy Bradbury. Bradbury said she wished to honor Young, 82, who died in October after 43 years in the U.S. House of Representatives. Young grew up in Pinellas Park and retained ties with the city throughout his life. He was instrumental in bringing the C.W. Bill Young Armed Forces Reserve Center, 2801 Grand Ave. N, to the city.

When Bradbury first proposed the idea during a City Council workshop in January, the proposal was to name only that portion of the road lying within the city limits — from the intersection of 28th Street N/Grand Avenue and Gandy, just east of U.S. 19, to a spot just east of the Wagon Wheel Flea Market, 7801 Park Blvd. But after that, the proposal blossomed as Pinellas Park officials contacted Pinellas County and Seminole city officials to get buy-in to rename the sections of the road that were in their jurisdictions. Both agreed to the proposal, and it was sent off to state Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, the head of the county's legislative delegation and chair of the Senate transportation committee. If the proposal makes it through the Legislature, the state Department of Transportation will make some signs and schedule a ceremony.

Supporters of the proposal stress that the memorial is just that and not a renaming of the road itself.

"We are not going to change the address of anybody," Seminole Mayor Leslie Waters said.

Although Young has other things named after him, Waters said she doesn't believe adding the memorial name to Park is too much.

"It's justified," she said. "He grew up in Pinellas Park. … He lived in Pinellas Park, so that was kind of his base. His congressional office was in Seminole. … I do think it's a deserved recognition."

Besides, she said, people won't see the signs "every three blocks. It's just one or two signs."

Those will likely be at the Grand-Gandy intersection and the western end of Park — at Indian Shores.

The new name did not come without a bit of controversy. When Bradbury first proposed the idea, her council was not unanimous in its support. The Tampa Bay Times had just written a news article telling of Young's convoluted personal life and a first wife and family that had been relegated to the background. Council member Patti Johnson had referred to the article in wondering if it was appropriate to name Park after him.

But on Monday, Johnson said she had put her objection "to rest" because enough time had passed to allow emotions to cool a bit.

"I'm going along with it," Johnson said. "He did do a lot for everyone. … It was just the timing right then. We needed to take a step back and wait for it to resolve itself."

Anne Lindberg can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8450. Follow @ALindbergTimes on Twitter.

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