Jacksonville City Councilman Bill Gulliford secured $100,000 for park improvements within his district, and approximately $30,000 of those funds will go to Pablo Historical Park at the Beaches Musuem in Jacksonville Beach.
The Jacksonville Beach City Council approved City Manager George Forbes’s recommendation to allocate the money to the museum during its March 7 meeting. According to Christine Hoffman, executive director of the Beaches Historical Museum, the next steps for Pablo Park involve adding additional paved walkways, improving the existing lighting and completing a picket fence already on site.
“This has always been our plan. When we heard Gulliford had funding for park improvements — and this is technically a park owned by the city of Jacksonville Beach — we realized we were eligible,” she added. “I have a lot of pride in what is happening here. Most of our donors are really engaged, but not just them. It is our board, our volunteers and the community, as well. They want to see these buildings and houses and pieces of our history well maintained.”
The long-term vision for Pablo Historical Park started when the museum added the first building, the chapel, in 2012 — and now, as it completes its acquisitions with the Oesterrieicher-McCormick Cabin last year, the next stage looms. The goal in the near future is to improve accessibility, safety and aesthetics. Because the buildings were each added at a different time over three decades, they do not feel connected, Hoffman said.
While all the buildings are accessible by ramp or by stairs, there is currently not a path running to tie them together. For accessibility purposes, the museum staff intends to complete a walkway system to increase the ease of travel between buildings. For those who may utilize walkers or wheelchairs, these improvements should help to maneuver the space.
Since the park sees visitors at all hours of the day, Hoffman said part of the plan will be to add lights on each building. As it is now, a periodic floodlight casts light onto the space, but it is not enough for visibility, safety and deterrence. Finally, a fence — originally installed in 2013 — will be closed on the Beach Boulevard side of the park.
Low estimates for the project hover around $60,000, Hoffman said. The balance not covered by the money from Gulliford will be handled by the Beaches Museum.
“I think the city of Jacksonville Beach recognizes how well the museum takes care of the park,” she said. While Pablo Park is owned by Jacksonville Beach, the museum does maintain it, handling tree maintenance, pest control and more.
“The board and volunteers of the [Beaches Historical Society] have prioritized maintaining and beautifying the park as not only the back-drop of our historic buildings and exhibits, but also as a focal point in our community,” wrote Darby Brower, board president for the historical society. “… the park is open to the public and is frequented at all hours of the time, even when the museum is not open, by residents and visitors of the Beaches community.”
Bids for the project just started going out, Hoffman said. Currently, she is uncertain about the exact cost of the improvements, as well as a timeline for when they will start. However, the museum does plan to wait until after construction on the cabin is finished. According to Hoffman, that is moving along.
“This was the perfect timing,” she said, about Gulliford’s offer.
Other than the Pablo Park, Gulliford said in a letter to Jacksonville Beach he was also providing money to the park next to the Mayport ferry landing and to Eunice Park in the San Pablo area.