Construction tape and cones are scattered along the 14 new parking spaces added on East Retta Esplanade, south of the gazebo at Veterans Park in Punta Gorda.

Despite the recent addition of extra parking, there haven’t been many changes at Veterans Park in Punta Gorda lately.

At Wednesday’s City Council meeting, council members will have the chance to change that with a discussion on the second phase of improvements at the park, planned primarily around the gazebo area.

Wednesday’s meeting is 9 a.m. at City Hall, 326 W. Marion Ave. in Punta Gorda.

In October 2018, council members asked city staff to look at options for the construction of the new phase of the park, at the entrance of Laishley Park (120 Laishley Court).

“I’m disappointed that nothing has been done yet,” said local veteran Art McGinnis. “My understanding is that all of these changes were the (city’s) idea; it wasn’t the veterans.”

Phase two improvements will include multiple site modifications including walkways, plaza areas, site lighting, furnishings, seating walls and sections of 5-foot- and 8-foot-tall walls for mounting plaques and a proposed mural, according to City Communications Manager Melissa Reichert.

“No pavilions, buildings or other structures are proposed in this phase,” Reichert said.

City staff has suggested that phase-two funding come from the 1-percent sales tax Laishley Park Marriage Point project. To start the full project now, funds could be appropriated from additional interest revenue and undesignated projects in fiscal year 2019.

“The project timeline would be based on the City Council’s direction,” Reichert said. “The City Council may choose to fund the entire project, to fund only select sub-areas, or not fund the project at all.”

City staff has worked with community partners to develop a concept plan for the renovations including streetscaping, an honor walk, a mural wall plaza, a Purple Heart memorial, a donor’s plaza and the gazebo ceremonial plaza.

The most recent addition is 14 new parking spaces along East Retta Esplanade.

“The parking along East Retta Esplanade is complete,” Reichert said. “The parking project was fully funded by the Vietnam Wall of Southwest Florida.”

The Vietnam Wall of Southwest Florida, a nonprofit corporation, completed over $70,000 worth of improvements within the Veterans Park phase two area, including the additional parking.

That leaves $470,000 for the city to fund.

If approved, the park’s current amenities should still be accessible.

“The (previous) improvements should largely be accessible during most, if not all, of any construction activities that would occur within the phase two area,” Reichert said. “This access may be from alternative routes and/or restricted on certain existing pathways, however.”

If the City Council moves forward with these new improvements, Reichert said city staff and the Vietnam Wall of Southwest Florida will work with the contractor, once selected, to ensure that the Vietnam Memorial Wall is accessible throughout the construction period.

Completed in November 2016, the replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial at Veterans Park in Punta Gorda has become a major attraction for Charlotte County residents and visitors alike.


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