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Date of Issue: April 12, 2007

Island veterans may get memorial - finally

island memorial side view
A view from the top of the hill just south of Leffis Key on State Road 789 (Gulf Drive) where the Island Veterans Memorial would be located. Islander Photo: Rick Catlin

The original proposal for an Island Veterans Memorial and flagpole at Leffis Key was derailed in 2001 when members of the Audubon Society complained that a flagpole at that location could scare wildlife and birds in the area. Society members also claimed that some birds might think the flapping of the lanyards against the pole was a bird of prey and become frightened.

Former County Administrator Ernie Padgett at that time tried to find a compromise and wanted to move the flagpole location about 150 yards south of Leffis Key to an unused hill on the east side of State Road 789 across from Coquina Beach. The Audubon Society approved the new location, but some Island veterans opposed any change to their plan and the project was shelved.

Now, however, Manatee County Veterans Services Officer Dale Keen is moving forward with an Island Veterans Memorial at the location proposed by Padgett and he'd like to see the first phase of the project - a flagpole - installed and dedicated by Memorial Day.

Keen said he recently received approval from the county commission to proceed with the project and he's already got the flagpole ready to go on top of the hill.

The complete project calls for a parking lot using paver bricks that will make it easier for wheelchairs to navigate to the flagpole, an engraved memorial honoring veterans, and some steps leading to the top of the hill where the flagpole will be located. Keen, however, will be happy just to get the flagpole up and dedicated as the first phase.

He's already gotten Florida Power & Light to install electric lines to light the flagpole 24 hours a day and the Manatee County Parks and Recreation Department will pay the FPL bill. The lights will be "turtle-proof" and not distracting to nesting turtles on the nearby beaches, Keen said.

All he needs now are the design drawings from the Mantee County Facilities Department. Those have to be submitted to the Bradenton Beach building department for approval before installation of the flagpole can begin.

"Everything is ready to go to Bradenton Beach except for the drawings," said Keen, who would like the process to move a bit faster. "Personally, I'd like to see the flagpole in place by Memorial Day," he said.

Keen said he did not know when the drawings might be finished.

The flag and memorial will honor all Manatee County veterans, but the location will be named the Island Veterans Memorial, he added.