On July 08,2019 the City,urged by SECA members and Councilman Scott Wilson,committed to using Speed Tables(shown above)to reduce traffic,speeding and accidents on the Peach-Forest-Live-Oak corridor. Work began on September 08,2020 and was completed in October 2020.That corridor had become an unwanted high-speed alternate to Southside Boulevard, encouraged somewhat by the City-State improvements at the Atlantic and Beach Boulevard entrances. Now,the Peach-Forest-Live-Oak corridor has been returned to a mostly calm residential street. The City’s initial data and proposals are available in the incomplete report downloadable here. And, the latest,October 30, 2019,revisions are available here.
In early 2019,following year-long discussions with Councilman Wilson and the City, the City installed a magnificent Visual Barrier between Patton Road and the shopping center to the south. The Magnolia-RedCedar-Pine landscape,financed by Tree Mitigation funds,will greatly protect the property values and life quality of the Patton-Orr neighborhoods.The final landscape design can be downloaded here.Initially,funds had been sought from Wawa and the shopping center owner,but Wawa’s $10,000 donation will be utilized for the restoration of Overpass Park.
In 2008 SECA sought to have Overpass Park renamed to Benolken Park,in honor of deceased Skip Benolken,longtime president and park creator. Because the park resides on State FDOT land, and because of FDOT’s reluctance to act, we asked Rep Clay Yarborough to accomplish the objective by act of the Legislature. Unfortunately,FDOT had too little experience with park naming,so we asked instead that the east service road be named Benolken Byway,to no avail.Then,Mr Yarborough’s staff suggested naming the pedestrian bridge after Skip,which was not suitable. Finally,a segment of Southside Boulevard was renamed. And,on September 09,1999,the roadway sign was unveiled and a sign replica was presented to Skip’s heir,Paul W. Rucker,at that day’s SECA meeting.We wish the replica had been made of gold,but unfortunately it is an ugly brown,shown above. Clay Yarborough has been a great friend of SECA.When others can’t get things done or violate the Public Good,he breaks through the resistance.Note,above,his help fixing the Southside-Beach interchange debacle.
Using a 50% City grant,SECA in 2018 installed a plaque at Overpass Park honoring the extraordinary work and dedication of two past SECA presidents.The final artwork can be found here. Some of Mr Benolken’s history is described on this page. And, here is more information about Ms Gilmore
In 2018 a gas station convenience store was opened in the Southside Estates Shopping Center.For more details download the images here. Beginning in August 2017 SECA requested that Wawa install a Visual Barrier between Patton Road and the Wawa site.Here are the communications,and here is the 5-page report which argue for the buffer.Controlled lighting was also sought,as explained in the referenced documents. Wawa board chairman Richard D Wood,Jr visited the site in September 2017 to evaluate our request. The outcome of SECA’s efforts was a $10,000 donation to the City from WaWa,to be applied to a nearby park.Those funds will be used to revitalize Overpass Park–one day to be named Benolken Park after Skip Benolken a longtime Community leader. WaWa would not fund directly the Visual Barrier at Patton Road.So,that Patton project, on FDOT property,was financed using the vast Tree Mitigation Fund.
Virtually alone,former SECA president Skip Benolken created Overpass Park at Ivey Road. Without his extraordinary efforts the park today would be a weed-covered wasteland. Mr Benolken personally acquired all of the donations,grants and volunteers needed to create the park–and he did the lion’s share of the labor. We hope to begin an effort to have the park named after Mr Benolken,who was a great benefactor to our Community,a model for all citizens.Colin Ross “Skip” Benolken,1935-2015.
The following letter,published June 27,2017 by the Florida Times-Union,tells the history of the Boulevard trees: Travelers on north Southside Boulevard are now cheered by the beauty of crape myrtles which line the avenue for two miles–the flowering trees have finally reached their magnificent maturity–many towering at 20 feet and all dazzling with color. This breathtaking City gateway,vital to a resurgent Regency Square,wasn’t always like this.For a generation this state road remained barren and bleak–FDOT had a responsibility to landscape this state property, to lessen its impact on nearby homes,but wouldn’t do it. The breakthrough came in 2003, when FDOT assented to a landscape installation negotiated for years by adjoining Southside Estates Civic Association and then-councilman Lynette Self. Local council district discretionary funds,ot FDOT,would finance the planting of over a thousand trees.The community could have chosen another park,or expanded a community center,but it wanted these boulevard trees to protect adjacent property values and life quality–and to help revive a declining Regency Square area. Another boost came this spring when our heroes,the City’s Mowing and Landscape Maintenance Division,replaced numerous dead trees to create a spectacular,uninterrupted landscape vista. The control of blight is a recent civic priority, but blight has always plagued the City.Some cures take many years.If it were not for the perseverance of a homeowners group and a city councilman,begun 20 years ago, we would not have the blight-killing roadway trees that have reached their stunning prime this year.By all means,see this sensational community treasure. Philip Wemhoff
By the close of 2022 the park will have a new entrance,complete with reclaimed brick posts,simulated iron fencing and landscaping. The landscaping will likely consist of 5-foot camellia trees behind, and Azaleas in front. The biggest changes inside the park include repair of the main two-story building,and the creation of a new,exciting playground. The new playground,at the current location, will have many equipment types: Swings,slides,carrousel,rockers and climbing apparatus,as well as shade trees.Parents will enjoy covered picnic tables or a small pavilion. The tables or pavilion will be strategically located so that parents can watch both the nearby ball game and the smaller children in the playground.
The center off Beach Boulevard,just south of SECA’s district will be completed in mid-2022.Many services will be offered,including smartphone and computer training. There will also be crafts and other group events in the many special skills rooms.