Artist Arun Wijetilleke, Ornament Chairman.
Renae Senn and Founder of the Ornament Program
Artist Wijetilleke explains how an
ornament is developed
Garden Club President Kathie Althoff presents Arun
with a Pillar of Pride Award for her outstanding art
for the ornaments, with Renae Senn looking on
The Garden Club of IRC
our 25th Annual
ROYAL PALM POINTE PARK
The impressive entrance sign at the intersection of Indian River Boulevard and
Royal Palm Pointe, designed by Conrad Pickel Studios to include a palm tree
mosaic on each side, offers only a taste of the amazing expanse which lies
Royal Palm Pointe Park, opened in February 2001, extends from Indian River
Boulevard to the Indian River Lagoon. Open green spaces planted with palm trees,
flowers and shrubs provide an elegant median for the one way road which loops
around the park. Areas of the green spaces are designed to accommodate community
events. Professional offices, restaurants, small businesses and condominiums
line both sides of the roadway.
The park occupies a peninsula of land deeply rooted in the development of Vero
Beach and the three bridges which played such an integral part in its
The first bridge to span the Indian River Lagoon was built while the city was
still a part of St. Lucie County. Opened in 1920 the Vero Bridge was made of
cabbage palm pilings with a roadbed of heart of pine planks. The 145 foot steel
center span swung sideways to allow boat traffic to pass through.
After World War II local leaders recognized the need for a new bridge as Vero
Beach and the surrounding county began to develop rapidly. Through the efforts
of former state senator Merrill Barber and other community leaders a “state of
the art” concrete, draw span bridge replaced the old Vero Bridge. Dedicated on
March 18, 1951 it was named the Merrill P. Barber Bridge to honor the man who
had worked tirelessly for it.
After four decades the Barber Bridge was rapidly becoming inadequate due to the
increased traffic both across the bridge and under the bridge. A four lane, high
span structure that entirely eliminated the need for a draw span was built and
appropriately carries the name, the Merrill P. Barber Bridge. It was dedicated
on February 18, 1995.
Following many heated discussions the Vero Beach City Council voted to dismantle
the old bridge, leaving an empty peninsula jutting awkwardly into the lagoon.
The alignment of the new bridge, which intersects Indian River Boulevard north
of the existing approach, resulted in diverting traffic away from businesses on
the former causeway.
Working with the Royal Palm Pointe Merchants Association, the Vero Beach
Planning Department, the Urban Resource Group and two outstanding artists, Paul
Pickel and Sharon Sexton, developed a plan to make Royal Palm Pointe Park a
destination for which the city could be proud. Planners, engineers, architects,
designers, and artists worked in unison to make the plan a reality.
In addition to the loop roadway highlighted by the lush green median, the tip of
the peninsula has been developed into a unique park. Several steps up from the
easternmost parking area is a plaza featuring an interactive fountain punctuated
by forty-two lighted water nozzles. The fountain emanates from a fifty foot in
diameter mosaic designed and executed by artist Paul Pickel. He and his
associates painstakingly installed the many glass pieces, fabricated in Italy,
to execute the theme of “a colorful spiral sun with bright flames celebrating in
all directions.” The Pickel Studio also designed five mosaic circles and two
royal palm trees to surround the fountain.
Several steps down from the plaza at the water’s edge is a colonnade of four,
four-sided, ten foot tall, ceramic tiled columns designed by artist Sharon
Sexton. She carved, sculpted and glazed each tile to depict elements of
ecological beauty indicative of the ocean, the wet land area and the hammock as
well as the Indian River Lagoon. A fishing pier extends into the lagoon waters
from this location.
In the distance the new Barber Bridge gracefully spans the lagoon while the
prior bridge’s terminus is home to an amazingly imaginative park for all to
We gratefully acknowledge the generous assistance of Mr. Paul Pickel.
Sources: The Royal Palm Pointe Park website and the Indian River County Library
Ornament design from an original sketch by Arun Wijetilleke.
Brochure compiled by Nat Jackson.
All proceeds from the sale of this ornament will be used by the Garden Club of
Indian River County, Inc. for its projects.