SHALIMAR — Women are the unsung heroes of the U.S. military, Air Force veteran Lisa Jo Spencer told the Okaloosa County Tourist Development Council on Tuesday.

Spencer is a local attorney who was part of the Judge Advocate General’s Corps during her military career. She was one of more than a dozen people who urged the council to support a proposed Veterans Park memorial for women who served in various military branches/service organizations.

“I’m proud to stand on the shoulders of so many women in the military before me, going back to the Revolutionary War,” Spencer said.

She said six of her neighbors’ houses on her street in Mary Esther have military connections, with two of the homes each belonging to a female pilot and their respective families.

Female military members have made many outstanding contributions over the years, retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Gordon Fornell said.

“I hold them in great esteem and I think this (proposed memorial) would be a logical step to recognize their service,” he said.

The TDC later issued conceptual approval to the memorial, as well as a slew of earlier-proposed changes that also are expected to increase visitors’ enjoyment of Veterans Park, which is on Okaloosa Island.

The other changes include the addition of a pier with boat slips, replacement of the existing boardwalk with a longer, elevated one and stabilization of the eroding shoreline along Choctawhatchee Bay.

The county now has state and federal permits needed for the proposed upgrades, which include improving the shoreline along both Veterans Park and the adjacent Marler Park, said Matt Trammell from the county’s coastal engineering consulting firm of Taylor Engineering in Destin.

Trammell said the possible memorial could stand in an open area that is across a retention pond from the Emerald Coast Convention Center parking lot. Visitors to the memorial would cross a walkway over the pond, which is dry most of the year.

The idea for the memorial came from District 2 County Commissioner Carolyn Ketchel, who is a member of The Choctawhatchee Bay Chapter of The Daughters of the American Revolution.

“Women in military service started from the beginning, with Gen. Washington’s spy ring,” Ketchel said.

One conceptual plan for the memorial calls for a monument that would consist of a fountain encircled by eight bronze statues of outward-facing women wearing various military uniforms.

The uniforms might represent the following segments of the military: Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps; Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service; United States Coast Guard Women’s Reserve; Marine Corps Women’s Reserve; Women’s Army Corps; Woman’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron; Women’s Airforce Service Pilots; and Women in the Air Force.

The monument could be similar in scale to the sculpture of dancing children over a fountain at the Mattie Kelly Arts Center at Northwest Florida State College in Niceville.

The eight statues for the proposed memorial could cost a total of about $200,000 to $400,000, said Greg Kisela, deputy county administrator for operations. Adding a fountain and brick pavers could raise the overall price tag of the memorial to up to $1 million, he said.

The county’s estimated total cost of the other proposed changes to Veterans Park, including the shoreline and boardwalk upgrades and installation of the pier, ranges from $4.5 million to more than $8 million.

Kisela said the County Commission will be asked on Monday to give policy direction on all of the various possible park changes. He said the county currently has $2 million set aside for the projects and that, with the commission’s approval, staff would determine firm project costs.

Additional funding could include money from state and federal sources.

In other business on Tuesday, the TDC approved setting aside $10,000 in next fiscal year’s budget for a project led by the nonprofit Trees on the Coast to enhance the "Welcome to Destin" sign by the Marler Bridge.

The estimated $17,000 project calls for adding trees and other plants next to and below the sign, with the flora surrounded by a decorative wall.

Destin officials, who recently agreed to maintain the trees and plants, hope to amend the city’s lease of the sign spot with the Department of Defense so the Trees on the Coast project can become a reality.