Veterans, Detroit Lakes spar over monumentVeterans here interested in creating a municipal park honoring veterans are feeling stymied because city officials cannot yet sign off on their desired plans.
By: By Pippi Mayfield , Forum Communications Co. , The Jamestown Sun
DETROIT LAKES, Minn. — Veterans here interested in creating a municipal park honoring veterans are feeling stymied because city officials cannot yet sign off on their desired plans.
Veteran George Peters, who spent 24 years in the Army, including serving as a Green Beret, is among a group of local veterans who want to build a memorial park along state Highway 10 and near the entrance to the city’s downtown.
And while city officials support the park, they cannot say definitively whether a memorial can be built on the western part of the 0.08 acres that have been designated for the park. Why? Because the state, which holds the right of way for that land may want it back in the future.
The matter of the veterans’ park will be coming before the Detroit Lakes City Council next month.
Detroit Lakes previously did have a veterans park, complete with monuments, but all of it had to be moved to make way for an expansion of the Becker County Courthouse.
Local veterans didn’t object, but they asked if a veterans park could then be incorporated into the massive redesign which significantly reshaped the downtown.
Their request was granted and local veterans’ clubs formed a group to raise funds for a monument, pavers, benches and other amenities for the park.
It contracted a granite company to make a memorial, and it’s that monument that is at the center of the debate.
Some community members would like to see the monument on the east side of the park, and veterans insist it should be placed on the west side, a prominent entry point into the city’s downtown. The veterans add they would like to see the monuments from the previous veterans park be placed on the east side of the land.
However, said City Administrator Bob Louiseau, if the state ever wants to use that right of way, the city would have to give up the land and the park and monument would have to be moved.
“They’ve gotten a preliminary blessing on that design,” Louiseau said. “What hasn’t happened, is nobody said, ‘You can put that here.’”
But Peters, the Army veteran, is standing his ground.
“We will not compromise that monument,” he said.
To pay for the park, the veterans are selling pavers, which will be placed along the sidewalk. That cost is estimated at $250,000.
The veterans are asking the city to maintain the park, except replacing flags and similar maintenance needs.
Louiseau said city officials are working with their engineers to see if they can accommodate the veterans requests, but the veterans objective is to get the city council to say that is the space for the park so they can raise money and move forward with the design of the monument.
“It’ll be a very pleasant green space park,” Peters said. “What a welcome to our city it will be. The critical thing is to say it’s going here — we can’t say that right now.”
The city will discuss the issue at the Jan. 12 city council meeting.
Pippi Mayfield is a reporter at the Detroit Lakes (Minn.) Tribune, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.