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FDOT: Majority of Venice roadside memorial must be removed

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VENICE, Fla. -- For nearly a decade, the family of Valerie Moore has had a roadside memorial in Venice where the 17-year old died in a crash. Now they're being told it may have to go.

They're hoping the Florida Department of Transportation will listen to their pleas on how important it is to them and others.

The Moore's have done some extra decorating to the state-issued “Drive Safely” sign. All these years later, someone has complained about it, and the Florida Department of Transportation says they have to act.

In 2005, the 17-year old Venice High School student was killed in a crash along U.S. 41 near Timberline Boulevard in South Venice. It has left a hole in the heart of her parents, Charlie and Allison Moore of Englewood.

Since the crash, the place where she died has become an outlet for her loved ones. Trinkets and notes are left. Charlie, a landscaper, keeps the heart-shaped outline looking clean. "I am out here once a week weed-whacking or mowing around it."

Turning a place of disaster into a place of peace. “It just kind of settles me and calms me down."

However the family says the place that helps them heal may soon be no more. FDOT contacted the family recently, and spokesperson Lauren Hatchell says someone is complaining. "We got a complaint. The complaint was that it was growing larger and larger every year."

The make shift memorial is in their right of way. FDOT says the only thing allowed is the ‘Drive Safely’ sign they install for the family.

The state says extra decorations can be a distraction to drivers. "If it has to go, we will be heart broken. We understand rules. She is still here."

Allison says it's a site not just for them but for people they don't even know. "You have given so many friends and neighbors of ours a wonderful glow so many times when we pass by."

"A lot of people leave letters here that don't even know us. They say ‘my son passed away and I can't visit his site. I remember him every time I pass here. I stop and say a prayer’. If it helps other people, that's great."

A number of other similar memorials are in the area. Hatchell says once there is a complaint, though, they have to act. They want to work with the family but something will have to change. "We don't just want to take it up out of the ground and just say ‘sorry, it couldn't be here.’ That is not our position. Our position is unfortunately we do have to address it."

FDOT officials want to meet with the family at the site and see what can be worked out. They made it clear though that what's there now will likely have to be removed or moved.