MILTON — City staff, council members and the community gathered Thursday afternoon to celebrate the official grand opening of Gill Bass Park on the corner of Canal and Pine streets.
“This has been a long time coming, but it just goes to show with hard work you can get things accomplished in the city where good living flows,” Mayor Wesley Meiss said to guests before giving a brief history of the park.
Councilman Jeff Snow thanked Gerald Ward, the former public works director, for designing the park. He also thanked the current and previous council and mayor, as well as city staff for assisting with the park project.
“As beautiful as it is during the day time, come at night and it’s even more beautiful,” Snow said. “It’s truly a treasure for Milton and for the Gill Bass family and for all the citizens.”
Councilwoman Sharon Holley spoke to the crowd and thanked former City Manager Brian Watkins for helping with the project. The council terminated Watkins Monday.
“I appreciate… all the credit that was given to everybody that had a part in making this come to fortitude,” Holley said, “but there’s one person I think that was left out and that was our previous city manager, Brian Watkins, who saw this grant money through and stayed on it until it is what it is today.”
Pastor Donald Leavins of Faith Chapel Assembly of God in Milton spoke on behalf of the Gill Bass family.
“Brother Steve (Gill)… didn’t leave this property for himself,” Leavins said. “He left this property for you, and your children and your grandchildren.”
Long-time Milton resident Steve Gill donated the lot to the city in 2010 under the condition that the lot be turned into a passive park. Gill, who died in June 2017, originally planned to build a house on the property with his wife but decided it would better serve the community as a park.
The city broke ground April 2017, and Gill was able to attend. The park was completed late last year, and in the mean time, the city has added special touches to the park including three historic mill stones from the area, one of which was found on Councilwoman Pat Lunsford’s property. A plaque detailing the history of the park written by Pamela Holt, Milton’s public information officer and marketing director, has been ordered.
The project cost $750,000 and included street lights, landscaping, walking paths, a gazebo and a historic mill stone fountain. The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity awarded Milton a $700,000 Community Development Block Grant in 2013, and the city contributed $50,000 toward the project.