By Kyle LoJacono
Thousands of vehicles drive by the Lutz Memorial Park each day, but not many people know the history of the 35-year-old monument.
“I see it every day, but don’t know too much about it,” said 17-year Lutz resident Peggy McLaughlin.
John Rivera, who has lived in Lutz for eight years, said of the park, “I went over and looked at it a couple years ago during the Fourth of July parade. Other than that, I don’t know a lot about it.”
The park was built during the bicentennial celebration in Lutz in 1976 to honor all U.S. veterans, according to records with the Hillsborough County Parks, Recreation and Conservation Department. It is located just south of Bullard Park and the Lutz Branch Library, allowing the 33,500 daily drivers who travel along US 41 to catch a glimpse.
“The department handles the upkeep and runs the small park,” said county spokeswoman Kemly Green. “There is the park and another memorial at the same site.”
The second monument is the Lutz War Memorial, which predates the park by 23 years. It was built in 1953 to honor Hillsborough veterans. The inside walls of the shed-shaped structure are made of wood planks with the names of those from the county who have served.
The memorial was originally located on Second Street SW behind the library and near the Lutz Volunteer Fire Station and the Lutz Civic Center. It was built in that original location to replace a smaller “clapboard” memorial that stood for more than 40 years at the same site, according to county records.
The memorial was moved to the park in 1995 in part because people were vandalizing the structure. Joel Jackson oversaw moving the memorial and recalls a lot of arguing about its new location.
“I remember there being a lot of public meetings about where to move it,” Jackson said. “Some people wanted to tear it down and build a new one.”
The department’s records show the decision to move the memorial was reached to preserve the original structure. It cost the county $7,000 to move the building, which is open for the public to view the names only four days a year to prevent further vandalism.
The memorial is open from 8-10 a.m. and from 3-5 p.m. on the Fourth of July, Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day and POW/MIA Recognition Day, which is the third Friday in September.
The memorial is the southernmost part of the park. The oldest remaining element of the site is the flag pole nearest US 41. It was put up at the bicentennial celebration nearly 35 years ago.
Green said there is no more information in the county records about the original pole, but a plaque on its base reads it was donated by the Lutz Citizens League For The Bicentennial Celebration.
People can visit the park at any time. The only major community event that happens at the site during the year is the Lutz Independence Day Celebration, which is on July 4 starting at 8 a.m.
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