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Okaloosa Veterans Park additions still on track for late '21

Northwest Florida Daily News - 7/3/2020

Jul. 3--OKALOOSA ISLAND -- A women's veterans memorial, pier, new boardwalk and other additions to Okaloosa County'sVeterans Park still could be completed by Veterans Day 2021.

"COVID has certainly messed with everything, but the goal is still to get the project done within that time frame," county Public Works Director Jason Autrey said.

He said a firm had been chosen to design the new boardwalk, which will be elevated and longer than the current one. The 17.5-acre park stands next to Marler Park and the Destin-Fort Walton Beach Convention Center.

The pier will have 22 boat slips for day-use docking on Choctawhatchee Bay. Also planned are wave-reduction fencing, a stabilized bay shoreline; security cameras/lighting, osprey nesting platforms, and new native plants as well as fewer non-native ones.

The new features could cost a total of $4.5 million to $8 million. County officials plan to pay the cost with a mix of funding sources, including bed-tax money and grants.

At its July 21 meeting, the County Commission is expected to vote on approving the eight women who a committee has chosen to be honored at the women's veterans memorial. The board also plans to vote on approving the memorial's artist.

The memorial will consist of eight bronze, life-size statues of women from various military organizations and/or branches of service. The statues will stand along the new boardwalk, said Commissioner Carolyn Ketchel, who came up with the idea for the memorial.

Two of the women recommended for the memorial are still living, Ketchel said.

"It's honoring women who have served, even in the most recent theaters," she said of the memorial. "This is going to be a one of a kind memorial in the entire United States."

Each statue will have an educational component explaining the significance of each woman and why she was chosen to be honored.

The memorial could cost up to $715,000. Donations, grants and bed-tax money will cover the cost, Ketchel said.

"We have a private foundation, and we're still seeking donations," she said.

Donors can make checks out to the Eglin Air Force Association, with "women's veterans memorial park" on the memo line. Checks can be mailed to Candace Lovell, 10 W. Hollywood Blvd., Suite 137, Mary Esther, Florida, 32569.

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