On this day in history, June 6, 1944, the Battle of Normandy resulted in the Allied liberation of Western Europe from Nazi Germany’s control. This day was known as the beginning of the end of war in Europe. More than 4,000 Allied troops lost their lives in the D-Day invasion. We remember those who gave their lives to secure freedom from communism.
We also need to be reminded that Jacksonville is a Navy town and we can become a city that is known for one that honors our military. Why shouldn’t it have a Veteran’s Park on the downtown riverfront, with a Navy ship moored at the site?
Daniel Bean, a local lawyer and retired Navy captain, has been working on such a vision for some 11 years, and it is nearing fruition.
He hasn’t done it alone of course. Many others, including elected officials such as Rep. John Rutherford and U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, also are on board.
Justin Weakland, another Navy vet, also has been instrumental in getting the project to its current state, Bean said. “It will bring tourism,” he said.
If the City Council approves a pending ordinance, it may happen.
The USS Orleck, a Navy destroyer built in 1945, later given to Turkey and currently docked in Lake Charles, La., will be headed to Port Arthur, Texas, for inspections and repairs and then would be towed to Jacksonville.
It would be docked on the Northbank, near the Berkman II building, an ill-fated project that is being demolished.
Bean would like for the site to be the new home of the Jacksonville Navy Museum, which was in the Jacksonville Landing before that building was torn down.
In addition, Bean envisions a Veterans Park at the site, that could have as one of its featured attractions the Vietnam Wall, currently located a few blocks away in a parking lot.
Another feature could be the Lone Sailor statue now incongruously positioned near the School Board building.
Bean also proposes a Day on the River attraction, that would take visitors on a boat tour of the park, Zoo, Cummer Art Gallery and Museum of Science and History.
Bean said the Jacksonville Jaguars are not opposed to the project, which is important. That organization is planning major new developments near the stadium. One option is to move Metropolitan Park to the ship docking site and rename it Veterans Park.
A lot has to happen to bring it all together. But it would be a good fit with existing plans.
The U.S. Navy is the largest employer in Jacksonville, with two major installations. It brings millions in revenue to the area. Thousands of former Navy personnel live in the area.
The ship, park and museum would not be a major attraction. But smaller attractions are useful for visitors to the city and local residents. The concept works well with other additions to downtown and would be an attractive and enticing addition to the waterfront.
Eye on Jacksonville gives a big Wink to this project and urges support, vocal and financial by local residents who appreciate our military forces.