With demolition equipment at Navarre Park stirring up conversation in the community, people are wondering what will happen to the memorial bricks embedded in the walkways and the child handprint tiles lining the playground wall.
The answer? The bricks will be saved and relocated. The tiles will be removed and discarded.
Navarre Park is currently under Phase 1 of their remodel and portions of the park are closed as materials are being pulled up and some reutilized.
Navarre County Commissioner Dave Piech said the memorial bricks will be reused.
“We’re going to store them during the remodel and the plan is to utilize them in phase two and three of the project,” Piech said.
Santa Rosa County is keeping the bricks separated into two categories – bricks from The Butterfly House and bricks from the Chamber Foundation. All the bricks will be pressure-washed, stored and sorted onto pallets according to the list of sponsored bricks. The Butterfly House bricks will be moved to the new location in Milton and all other bricks will be incorporated into a new memorial design later. Memorial benches are being preserved to be reutilized in the new phases of the park as well, which is still years away.
“We haven’t finalized the Phase 2 design yet, but we’re going to try and keep all of the memorial stuff in an area and make like a memorial plaza, probably closer to where the Blackhawk Memorial is,” Piech added.
But many of the handprint tiles are already broken and could not be removed without further damage, Piech said.
“The ceramic tiles are not very conducive to being removed and then reused,” he said. “They break up, they get brittle. So that was never really a plan.”
And unlike the bricks, the county does not have a list of those who placed the tiles.
“I don’t know if you’ve looked at them, but it would be kind of hard to find Pookey 301 to tell them their tile is in the park,” Piech said. “It was just a fun project for the Navarre Chamber Foundation to do a project with the schools.”
Santa Rosa County Public Information Officer Brandi Bates said they are finding a way to salvage the tiles they can.
The contractor has been able to remove the tiles bonded to the wall with an acrylic adhesive, recovering four milk crates of tiles, she said.
Those tiles will be made available for pickup at the Visitors Information Center located in the park, 8543 Navarre Pkwy., between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday until Nov. 1.
“The remaining tiles adhered in Thinset (a type of cement), which is much stronger, were nearly impossible to safely remove in whole pieces,” she added. “Those tiles will be photographed and uploaded to our web site and shared on social media for the owners to download.”
Bates said the county appreciates the contractor going beyond the project scope to remove the tiles for our residents.
Navarre local Bailey Honaker has deep ties to the handprint tiles at Navarre Park. Her mother Laurie was a part of the mom’s club that helped raise money to build the park.
“When the park was built, the community came together and had tile painting, where the kids would put paint on their hand and place it on the tiles and the moms club made a wall with all the tiles on there,” Honaker said.
Honaker and her best friend Dawson Lee were among the colorful handprints side by side painted on the wall in 2006.
“That park has a lot of connect with me, with all the field trips, birthday parties, social events,” she said. “I am really sad to see it go because it was hard work getting the park put there.”
The contractor’s performance period is 270 days and started Oct. 1.
Michael Schmidt, environmental director of Santa Rosa County, said portions of the park will remain closed for the duration of the contract.
“We hope to see the park reopen to the public sometime around this time next year, but weather delays may add to the overall contract time,” he said. “The park will fully open to the public once the project is completed.”
*Editor’s Note: The tiles will be discarded from Navarre Park and not reused by the county. Tiles that could be salvaged will be made available for pickup at the Visitors Information Center located in the park, 8543 Navarre Pkwy., between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday until Nov. 1.