ORANGE PARK – The waterfront property that someday will be the town’s first public access to the St. Johns River will be called Rob Bradley Conservation Park at Nelson Point.
Town and county officials unveiled a sign last Wednesday to honor the work by the state senator and the Nelson family to turn the 10-acre lot into a public park. The is property situated on the banks of the St. Johns River and had long been in the Nelson family. But after a sale by two Nelson family members, Pat Meeks, who is the wife of former Orange Park Mayor Gary Meeks, and her sister, the park will now be enjoyed by the entire town.
“Years ago, [Bradley] shared with me the vision of today,” Gary Meeks said. “This day holds significant importance for Orange Park: the town had no way to enjoy the water until [Bradley] made it a reality.”
Residents, commissioners, council members, congressional representatives and town officials gathered at 670 Nelson Drive South to unveil the official sign of the park. The sign was an important part of the day, as was honoring everyone involved in making it happen.
County commissioner Diane Hutchings spoke about the importance of Bradley placed on the environment during his time in office, recalling his votes for projects totaling more than $1 billion like the Keystone Heights lakes, algae blooms, everglade protection and making the Nelson Drive park a reality.
Orange Park Town Mayor Connie Thomas also talked of the hard work by the Nelson family and Bradley.
“We are blessed to have this day, such a beautiful day, to create together a lasting legacy in Orange Park,” Thomas said. “Generations and generations of people in this town will enjoy all that this park has to offer.”
Bradley said the park’s name is an honor beyond comprehension, and that it means a lot to his family. The park wouldn’t have been possible had it not been for the Nelson family, the Meeks, the BCC and of course, the Orange Park Town Council, he said. He also thanked others that made it possible.
“None of this stuff happens in the world without teammates...and I’m very honored this is happening today, but it wouldn’t have been possible without teammates of mine like [Rep. Travis Cummings] and [Rep. Bobby Payne],” Bradley said. “There are a lot of people that brought this to life that aren’t me and today wouldn’t be happening without them.”
The new sign is located at what will be the main entrance. When park will be opened still hasn’t been finalized. Now that the BCC has turned the deed over to the town council, the council will have to determine how best to utilize the property.
Thomas said in previous town council meetings the park will remain natural and void of large structures or buildings. She hopes for access to the water with a boat ramp or kayak launch, as well as sidewalks and trails for families wishing to take advantage of the natural amenities.