Surprise renaming of Navarre Park fizzles

Without consulting key stakeholders or polling constituents, Commissioner Rob Williamson placed an agenda item on the County Commissioners’ agenda to rename Navarre Park to Navarre Memorial Park only to pull it after hearing the sentiments of the other commissioners and the public. The only notice given was in the backup materials provided for the meeting which offered less than 24 “business hours’” notice before the meeting commenced.

Commissioner Jayer Williamson queried how Williamson decided that Navarre Park needed a name change. “Generally renaming of parks is community driven.  Was this driven from the community or how did you come about renaming of the park?”

Williamson explained he made the decision as the county commissioner for the Navarre area.  “This really just came about of what I viewed as a natural progression of the use of the park,” he said.

Williamson made a point to mention twice that he had received only two emails in opposition to renaming Navarre Park and one email in favor. One of the two emails in opposition to the renaming was from Mike Sandler, chairman of the Navarre Chamber Foundation.

Sandler expressed the foundation has a vested in Navarre Park and has made more than $180,000 of improvements there as well as provides volunteers on a weekly if not daily basis. Sandler acknowledged that the park currently has several memorials within its boundaries and another planned in the near future, but deemed the park itself should not be defined as a memorial park.

“On any given day, especially in nice weather, there are hundreds of kids running around the play areas, individuals exercising along the Nature Walk or on the basketball court, concerts, birthdays or other celebratory events in the pavilions, and the park currently is scheduled for some major recreational improvements,” he said.  “The designation of ‘memorial’ gives the entire park a somber tone and usually not something associated with a family fun environment,” Sandler said.

Commissioner Bob Cole agreed with Sandler. He explained that even though he loves the idea of the Black Hawk memorial planned for Navarre Park, he would like to see it (the park name) remain as is.

Commissioner Don Salter echoed his desire for the park’s name to stay the same as well. He named memorial parks already in place such as the Santa Rosa Veteran’s Memorial in Milton “which is specifically for veterans and families of veterans” and the Pensacola Veteran’s Plaza which features the Wall South.

Williamson conceded that his initiative to rename the park wasn’t going to be moved to Thursday’s vote.  “Whether or not we add the word memorial to the park or not – it isn’t going to change the ongoing efforts to convert the park to what will be a world-class facility.”

He recounted that the two most-attended events in the park were the Veteran’s Day and the Memorial Day events. “I don’t believe it strikes a somber tone – I believe it is who we are; we should be naming every park a memorial park,” Williamson said.

Navarre resident Yvonne Harper said that while she liked the idea of a memorial park, “it would be better to designate somewhere in Navarre for that specific reason; however, I appreciate the sentiment.”

Commissioner Lane Lynchard asked that Williamson work with the Navarre Chamber Foundation and the Navarre Chamber.

As seen in the Jan. 28 issue of Navarre Press. Click HERE to subscribe for as little as $38 per year.

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