County OKs 'Veterans Memorial Highway'
For a lot of area veterans, it may be the most important strip of pavement since they traveled Highway 1 in Vietnam. Or maybe the airport road into Baghdad. Or the road to Seoul, or Berlin.
The Becker County Board on Tuesday passed a resolution establishing the Becker County Veterans Memorial Highway.
The 36-mile route starts at the Otter Tail County Line, where Becker County Road 33 joins with the Otter Tail County Veterans Memorial Highway.
It goes north to Highway 87, jogs east to County Road 39, continues north, turns west on Highway 34 and continues north again on County Road 37, the Shell Lake Road, and continues on County Road 37 to Clearwater County Road 39.
Clearwater County is considering taking the route from there across Clearwater County. Organizers hope it will eventually reach Canada.
For those who live on the route, County Road 37 will still be County Road 37. The veterans' designation is purely honorary, and the blue signs with white lettering designating the "Becker County Veterans Memorial Highway" will be placed under existing numbered county road signs, which will remain the primary highway designation.
The signs are intended to honor all veterans, past, present and future.
"The signs will mean something different to everyone who sees them," said Larry Hynding, a veteran who works at the Becker County Highway Department and who helped start the ball rolling on the project in January. "I know there are some guys that didn't make it back that I'll be thinking of when I see one," he said in an interview.
About 30 veterans burst into applause after the board action Tuesday.
They represented 12 veterans' organizations in Becker County sponsoring the route -- VFW organizations in Detroit Lakes, Frazee, Audubon, Wolf Lake and Ogema; American Legion organizations in Detroit Lakes, Lake Park and Audubon; the Detroit Lakes area Disabled American Veterans; the Detroit Lakes area American Veterans; the Detroit Lakes area Military Order of the Purple Heart and the White Earth Veterans Association.
The veterans' groups are footing the bill for the signs -- a total of about $1,800 for 50 highway-quality signs, to be made by M-R Signs of Fergus Falls.
Becker County highway workers will install the signs, and the county will serve as financial agent for the project.
The county resolution only covers county roads, so organizers are considering asking the Legislature to designate that portion of the route that covers state highways.
Otter Tail County veterans successfully did so for their veterans' highway, Hynding said. He credited Otter Tail County veteran Perrie Sheldon for serving as mentor to the Becker County organizers.
"We'd like to get a few of the signs up before Memorial Day," he added. "The rest will go up over the summer."
A number of Becker County veterans have been involved in the effort. They include: Phil Bellefeuille, Don Schattschneider, Ray Blauert, Tom Frank, George Peters, Robert Ellsworth, Rod Highelk, Dave Coalwell, Tim Bauer, DeWayne Dunham, Lyle Just, Paul Williams, Douglas Fabre, Donald Thorp, Gene Fuhs, Arnold Larson, Leo Ennen, Vince Larson and Richard Schmidt.
Advisors include County Administrator Brian Berg, County Engineer Brad Wentz, retired MnDOT engineer Tallack Johnson and Becker County Veterans Service Officer Lauri Brooke.
"Veterans take a lot of pride in being caretakers for these types of memorials," Hynding said. "I'll bet there will be people driving the routes making sure the signs are in good condition."