The newly constructed Reserve Park is looking for a personal touch to enhance its opening for next month.
Wild Spaces and Public Places (WSPP), a community recreational improvement program, is seeking stories and memorabilia donations from those connected to the C.R. Layton U.S. Army Reserve Center, the park’s predecessor located at 1125 NE 8th Ave., said project manager Peter McNiece. An army transportation battalion operated there from 1953 to 2009, McNiece said.
McNiece said that they are looking for people who have pictures of the facility from when it was in operation to create an interpretive sign for the park. The sign would exist to preserve the history of the site.
The project is being funded with a half-cent sales tax, said Angie Gould, WSPP’s senior marketing and communications specialist. The half-cent sales tax is a ballot initiative from December 2016 which increased the Alachua County sales tax by one-half of one percent, she said. The money from the tax will be used by WSPP to improve and acquire environmentally sensitive lands and to create and maintain parks and recreational facilities like Reserve Park.
Gould is also in charge of designing the sign and said that donating photographs of the Army Reserve Center in service would be specifically helpful in completing the park. The history of the interpretive sign comes from the Reserve Center’s 257th movement control battalion, known as the Movers and Shakers, who occupied the 6.8 acre site for nearly 60 years.
“All the signage is complete except for that interpretive sign, just because we want to make sure the history is correct,” Gould said.
The space became available when the Army Reserve relocated to a former Navy Reserve center in 2009, McNiece said. Military-grade protective gear company Phalanx Defense Systems moved into the vacated building in 2016, but a huge field was still left available for use, he said.
McNiece has received stories from people in the community who remember tanks driving over this field in the Reserve Center’s prime. The extensive space became far less dynamic upon its vacancy, and he said he hopes the park will give it new life.
Most of the land remained in this state until discussions for the park started in 2012, McNiece said. The plethora of community discussion has contributed to the amount of time taken to come up with a plan and bring it to completion.
“We’re really excited about the opportunity to fix up these community parks here in Gainesville,” McNiece said. “It means a lot to the neighbors in this area to have something this nice.”