PALM BAY, Fla. (FOX 35 ORLANDO) - A makeshift memorial is creating conflict in a Palm Bay neighborhood. For some, it’s a comfort, but for others, it's an eyesore.
The tribute is covered with flowers and pictures; it’s the spot where 19-year-old Zach Caufield died in a car crash. There is also a solar power lighted cross next to some wreaths and several messages.
A neighbor calls it a distraction and unsightly, so he wants it taken down.
“We’ve got cemeteries to grieve for the dead, so why should I be subject to that every day?” said Albert Messenger. "Now, they’ve got chairs out there. What are they going to do? Be putting picnic tables up?”
Caufield's family said there won't be picnic tables, but they would like to leave the cross intact for a year, then have a small marker put in its place. Caufield's grandfather said the cross is a comfort for loved ones.
“It’s right above where Zach died,” Frank Caufield explained.
His grandson went into a nearby canal, so he hopes the cross is also serving as a warning to drivers about a sharp curve and a steep drop. Describing his grandson as a young man who loved to fish, liked to fix things, and always presented a giving smile, he added he can feel a spiritual presence at the site.
“All of us...everybody who knew Zach... has come out by this memorial and said some words. It’s their opportunity to talk to Zach and say a prayer.”
However, Messenger has filed a complaint with the water district, as the cross is technically on his property. The Caufields responded by going door to door with a petition, and they have found a lot of support.
“We started right here at the first house, we spent two weekends, we have 100 signatures,” Caufield said.
The district will discuss this issue on April 23. There are no rules on their books about makeshift memorials, so this is uncharted turf. Still, both sides are holding firm. There are state rules about crosses on state roads and highways, but because this is closer to the canal, this falls under the jurisdiction of the water district.