Farewell to Melrose

I’ve personally had an association with Melrose since the late 1940s. Back then, my Dad and I would come to Lake Santa Fe fishing and had some interesting experiences.
 
However, in 1998, Susan and I, tired of facing Atlanta congestion and traffic, started thinking about moving back to Florida. We selected Melrose for its proximity to Gainesville, Jacksonville, and St. Augustine. We located a place to live and moved in late October, 1998 with no idea of what was in store for us.
 
The next January, I attended the first Melrose Business and Community Association, Inc. meeting of the year. On the way in, I met Ralph King and once in the Melrose Methodist Church Fellowship Hall, the next person I met was Robert (Bob) Hardee. After a brief dialogue, it was determined we were high school classmates, graduating the same year 48 years earlier from Robert E. Lee in Jacksonville. So, I kind of felt at home already.
 
I introduced myself at the appropriate time and told them that I lived in the “older part of Melrose.” I was quickly informed that I was living in the “Historic District.” ;-) Needless to say, I joined the MBCA then and there.
 
Along the way, I agreed to serve on a committee to beautify Bellamy Avenue (SR 26) with Ron Haase and others. We received funds from Alachua and Putnam Counties plus many donations from area citizens to make it possible. So the younger live oaks and some palms are the result of those efforts plus the native plums across the street from the M & S Bank by the Harry Jackson residence.
 
In 2000, I was asked to serve on the MBCA Board and that fall when election time rolled around was asked to be placed on the ballot to possibly serve as vice-president in 2001. Little did I know, that Bart Adams, the President was planning to move to Arkansas. The farewell meeting for Bart was March, 2001 and I took over for the remainder of that year plus the year 2002. Between then and 2010, I was on the board for several of those intervening years. And, I took over again as President for 2010 and for 2011 with help from Jeff Knee.
 
Several positive things happened for Melrose in that period of 2001 to 2011. We were successful in getting a sidewalk built from the Melrose School along SR 21 up to Lakeside Drive. Stacy Chiappini deserves credit for spearheading that effort.
 
We finally got the ear of the Florida Department of Transportation and they saw the wisdom of restricting parking along Bellamy Avenue (SR 26) to a two hour time limit. Previously, we had truckers park their rigs along the roadway sometimes for 3 days or so at a time. Some were refrigerated units and noisy in addition to being a traffic hazard. We had one in particular park on SR 26 at the corner of Lexington that we would hear from our home for days at a time. So, Susan and I were victims of the truck issue, too. You were virtually taking your life in your hands to pull out of a side street with trucks parked along Bellamy Avenue (SR 26).
 
We assisted Historic Melrose, Inc. with the acquisition of the land which is now known as Heritage Park. With support of the entire community, the MBCA was able to bring Christmas lights to Melrose.
 
I served on the Eco-Heritage Tourism Council of Alachua County for several years and obtained some grants for the community, initially for Historic Melrose, Inc.
 
After realizing Melrose Bay Park qualified for these grants because of its historic nature as the site of the Melrose docks for our boats which transported people and freight between Melrose and Waldo but also as an enviromental green space; we requested the Eco-heritage Tourism Council provide funding to help us at the Bay Park. We were initially turned down because one member said we did not qualify as we were more like a Chamber of Commerce because we had “business” in our name. I saw a way around that — we formed Melrose Bay Park, Inc. in March 2003, and obtained grants to assist with park operations of our little jewel on Melrose Bay. This area has also been known as the “Melrose Swimming Hole” since at least the 1940s. Now, people who learned to swim there as children, are bringing their grandchildren to swim there.
 
The late Dr. Phil Payne spearheaded the effort to get the “Four Corners Agreement” put in place by the Alachua, Bradford, Clay and Putnam County’s Sheriff Departments making their work a bit easier. The Sheriff’s call this project, “Cops Across Borders.” Apparently, this is the only such agreement in the entire State of Florida.
 
An outgrowth of working the Sheriff’s Departments, we were able to get the Kangaroo station at SR 21 and Bellamy Avenue (SR 26) to install improved lighting which helped to get rid of potentially undesirables from hanging around that station for various questionable purposes. This has helped make Melrose a safer community.
 
We always provide “Meet the Candidate” forums during election years. The date is yet to be determined, but most likely in July.
 
For the majority of these years, I’ve been the spokesperson for the newsletter, web-site, press releases, and other communications with the area residents. The MBCA had a web-site hosted by Alachua Free Net (AFN) when I joined in 1999. About 2000, Sue Harpe Leinart who had been handling it, asked me to take it over. Not to blow my own horn, but I acquired the domain, Melrosefl.com in September 2003 and started developing the Melrose web-site and then on June 30, 2009, added the Melrose Grapevine, our community blog.
 
However after December 31, 2011, it’s been turned over to others. I continue to get requests to publicize events, etc. and find myself frequently saying “that’s not my job” any longer.
 
I want to thank all including the MBCA and the Community at large for the assistance and support they have provided over the years. However, it’s time for Susan and me to get on with developing our own business and let others take care of Community needs going forward.
 
At this point, we don’t plan to leave the area, but as the old Southern expression says, “we have other fish to fry” in the future.
 
See you around at different events.
 
A big thanks to the Melrose Community, for some rather interesting experiences over these years.
 
Best wishes,
 
Tom Lucas
 

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