MacWilliam Family Contributes To Neighborhood Parks

Dated: March 6 2024

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Veterans Memorial Island Sanctuary

When Alexander D. “Mac” MacWilliam, Sr. arrived in Vero Beach in 1919, the small town had a little more than 500 people, a blacksmith shop and a few stores. A twice wounded and highly decorated veteran of WWI, MacWilliam came to Vero Beach to help build a small community on the barrier island now known as Riomar. At the time, there was no bridge to the island, so all building materials were transported via watercraft. After successfully developing this part of the barrier island, MacWilliam helped the effort to build a bridge to the island. In 1927, MacWilliam was elected mayor of Vero Beach where he spent several terms in this position for a total of 18 years. During his time as mayor and eventually as a legislator (five sessions of service), MacWilliam’s efforts contributed to our area’s public parks including Veterans Memorial Island Sanctuary and Alex MacWilliam Park.

As mayor, one of MacWilliam’s accomplishments in 1944 was to help acquire land where the current Riverside Park resides as well as where current the Beachland Elementary School, Vero Beach Dog Park, and the Bob Summers Park ball field all reside. Later, in 1951, the City agreed to grant the Florida Department of Transportation part of this land to build a new bridge provided the State dredge and fill land between the bridges to create a new City park. In 1952, Florida Governor Fuller Warran dedicated the park land calling it Alex MacWilliam Park which now includes the land behind the fire station with picnic shelters, tables, and benches, as well as a boat basin and boat ramp with parking right next to the VB Dog Park. The official address of Alex MacWilliam Park is 3362 Bridge Plaza Drive.

During his tenure in the Florida Legislature, MacWilliam championed the law that created a Florida State Veterans Commission, as he was determined that Florida honor its veterans. Next, in the 1940s, MacWilliam persuaded the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers to re-align the Intracoastal Waterway bringing it closer to the barrier island and to deposit the dredged material on a small island nearby. When the Corp’s project was completed, the federal government gave the newly created 7-acre island to the State of Florida.

In May 1947, the State of Florida officially deeded the island to the City of Vero Beach for the sole purpose of creating a veteran’s memorial to be dedicated to the men and women who had paid the supreme sacrifice while protecting our country. The island lay dormant for several years, however, MacWilliam took the lead in creating a volunteer effort to help raise funds to improve the island making it a suitable memorial for public use and a remembrance of our veterans. Hundreds of citizens in the community pitched in to raise funds and work on this project to include building a footbridge to the island, clearing a path through Australian pine trees, and planting 60 tall Royal Palm trees. At the base of each tree, a granite marker was placed with the name of a veteran from Indian River County who had died defending our country. There were 60 markers.

Veterans Memorial Island Sanctuary was officially dedicated in May 1964, two years before MacWilliam died, and as part of the dedication a memorial plaque was established that reads “Lest We Forget.” Through the years, there have been many improvements and changes to the island sanctuary. In 2021 at a special Memorial Day celebration, MacWilliam’s great-grandson Alex “AMAC” MacWilliam, IV said, “As Americans and as members of this special community, we have so much to be grateful for. None of it would be possible without our fallen soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of this nation and our cause for freedom. Memorial Island serves as a daily reminder of those sacrifices. My great-grandfather would be proud to see the transformation of the island from its dedication in the early 60s through its current state as a place to honor and remember our fallen.” Indeed, we are fortunate to have peaceful areas in our community to relax and marvel at the wonderous beauty of this special place we call our neighborhood, our home.

For more information see:

https://www.covb.org/270/Veterans-Memorial-Island-Sanctuary

https://www.covb.org/DocumentCenter/View/3481/Macwilliam-Park-History

https://indianriverguardian.com/2014/07/08/community-newstelling-the-story-of-veterans-memorial-island-sanctuary/

https://www.tcpalm.com/story/opinion/columnists/laurence-reisman/2021/05/28/memorial-day-vero-beach-eyes-world-war-dead-hero-survivor-opinion/5133205001/

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Alex "AMAC" MacWilliam IV

It was bound to happen the day Alex MacWilliam, IV was born…the Alex MacWilliam Real Estate family legacy would carry on. Fast forward to September 2013, when Alex IV joined the firm, and the famil....

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