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Pavilion to offer shelter at Eco Park memorial; Builders still seeking donations

By Staff | May 21, 2008

The Veteran’s Memorial at Eco Park will be getting a brand new pavilion to compliment the arrangement of armed service flags built three years ago. News of the 1,500-square-foot pavilion comes just in time for Memorial Day.

The Veteran’s Midpoint Memorial Charitable Trust is spearheading the project as a tribute to the generations of soldiers who served around the world. The pavilion will provide a shady respite from the elements for veteran’s groups and memorial visitors who come to pay their respects.

“This is phase two of the flag arrangement that’s there now, for all the veterans and veterans groups to use all throughout the year,” said trust member Gary Bowler. “This really ties it in. People can go there and gather and not get scorched by the sun or it can keep them dry. A lot of people can pack into 1,500 square feet.”

Labor and materials for the pavilion are being donated by local companies, according to Ringland Construction, which is managing the project. Owner Russ Ringland said most of the materials are in place but they are still looking for a few things.

“We’re hoping to start in August and finish in September. We have a lot of it taken care of already, but we still need funds for costs,” Ringland said. “And we’re looking for a primary lumber company to work on the framing materials.”

Bowler added that with the downturn in the economy, lumber companies might be hesitant to donate.

“We could still use some cash, and we could desperately use some lumber,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll get a lumber company to help out. I know that things aren’t good, but there’s always tomorrow.”

The metal roof for the new pavilion will be donated by the city. Parks and Recreation Director Stephen Pohlman said the Veteran’s Memorial Trust originally had a silver roof for the pavilion, but it was decided that as the gateway to the community, the city wants the roof to have a copper look.

“The city is assisting with the metal roof,” Pohlman said. “I think it’s great that the city can partner with the committee to provide shade for the veterans as they visit the area.”

Bowler, a Vietnam veteran, became involved with the trust as a way to pay tribute to those who served in the armed forces — past and present. The trust recently finished a Vietnam Memorial on the Fort Myers side of the Midpoint Memorial Bridge with the help of Luc Century, an artist who worked on the National Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Bowler served in Vietnam from 1969 to 1970.

“That’s what it’s all about: honoring veterans and those who serve in the armed forces. The price of freedom isn’t free,” he said.

The pavilion will join memorials at Eco Park dedicated to those soldiers who fought in Iwo Jima, Vietnam and Korea, plus memorials for the Chosin Few and local submariners.

“We’re kind of excited we’re going to finally finish this project while I’m still young. It’s a great gift, a great gift to the city,” Bowler said.

Ringland echoed the sentiment, especially for the new generation of veterans returning from Iraq.

“It’s in the back of everybody’s mind, what’s happening overseas,” Ringland said. “We’ll be honoring not just past wars, we’ll also be saluting new veterans with our efforts.”