By SARAH SHMERLING | Editor-in-Chief

Several years in the making, the Veterans’ Garden project broke ground at Palisades Recreation Center on Saturday morning, December 7.

“It was great—it was absolutely great,” project founder Jimmy Dunne shared with the Palisadian-Post after the ceremony.

Despite scattered showers over the weekend, Dunne said that close to 75 community members filled the park to celebrate the start of construction, which will renovate the upper picnic area at the rec center.

Several speakers, including Councilmember Mike Bonin and Co-Honorary Mayors Billy and Janice Crystal, spoke at the ceremony, sharing sentiments of how blessed residents are to live in a place like Pacific Palisades.

“[They] spoke to how this park has been such a heartbeat of the community, and everybody was just so enthusiastic about this re-imagining of the upper park,” Dunne shared.

Dunne added that instead of a few people proverbially putting shovels into the ground, everybody gathered together, including families, kids, community leaders and dogs, to mark the ground breaking.

When complete, the renovated area, financed by “generous donations,” will offer an updated picnic and barbecue area, five “living rooms in the park” (areas separated by landscaping and furniture, each commemorating a branch of military service), bocce courts, and a flagpole and monument honoring veterans.

“I’m most excited about the living rooms in the park,” Dunne shared. “These are areas that are going to be wonderful places for couples and families and get togethers or just quiet times on a Sunday morning to come to the park.”

He also envisions the bocce courts, a sport that has been gaining popularity in recent years, to be a hub for seniors, with upcoming leagues in the works.

Dunne first pitched adding bocce courts and rejuvenating the upper picnic area of the park in January 2014. The idea of creating a Veterans’ Gardens came three years later, in summer 2017, when members of American Legion Post 283 approved a $400,000 matching grant, with a condition that the community donate an additional $200,000 toward the creation of the gardens.

The Pacific Palisades Park Advisory Board unanimously recommended that the Department of Recreation and Parks approve the project in September 2017.

Dunne shared that planning the Veterans’ Gardens has been a “wonderful” partnership between public and private sectors, estimating the ribbon would be cut on the project in the beginning of April 2020.

Dunne expressed deep gratitude toward Veterans’ Gardens Board Members Bill McGregor, Bob Harter, Bob Jernigan and Jay McCann.

With construction underway, the board is looking to the community to build an endowment to cover maintenance costs to preserve the park for years to come.

For more information or to donate to the project, visit veteransgardens.net.