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Veterans, city spar over monument

Veterans park looks like two triangles joined at the tips. Veterans want a monument on the triangle closest to downtown, while city officials would rather see it further east.1 / 2
This monument honoring veterans will hold a prominent place in the new park.2 / 2

After 24 years in the Army, retiring as a Green Beret and traveling to many places around the world, veteran George Peters says that Detroit Lakes is at the top of his list.

"Detroit Lakes is the most beautiful place I've lived in, because of the people," he said.

Peters and other veterans hope those people will see what veterans -- and their proposed park -- mean to Detroit Lakes, and Becker County as a whole.

The matter of the veterans' park will be coming before the Detroit Lakes City Council next month. The Park Board reviewed the land along Highway 10 in the redeveloped crescent area and is recommending the council approve .8 acres for the park along Highway 10 between Burger Time and the former Mac's hardware building.

Now it's a matter of timing, monument location and getting the fund-raising done to complete the park.

After the veterans' park and monuments were moved to make room for the Becker County Courthouse expansion, the veterans asked to be included in plans for the Highway 10 realignment.

The city hired RDG consultants to develop a design for the crescent area, and to look at ways to improve downtown, the Highway 10 corridor, West Lake Drive and North Washington Avenue. It was also asked to find a location for the veterans' park.

The RDG plan called for green space along Highway 10 in the Mac's to Central Market area, part of which was recommended for the veterans' park. The veterans' clubs have since formed a group to raise funds for a monument, pavers, benches and other aspects of the park.

The veterans' committee is made up of Peters, Don Schattschneider, Harland Thompson and Dave Coalwell, and receives a lot of help from Larry Hynding.

It has contracted with Ness Granite Works for the black granite memorial. Each pillar of the monument represents a branch of the armed services, as do the flags, including the American flag and POW flag.

Peters said the initial cost was $126,000 for the monument, but because Ness was able to locate black granite in the United States after more searching, the cost is now $65,000.

That granite monument is causing a bit of a stir among veterans and community members over its location. There has been some disagreement over where to place a monument -- on the east side of the park (near Burger Time) where some community members want it, or the west side (where the old Mac's building still stands) where the veterans want it.

Peters said the veterans thought the western side of the park would be nice because it's a welcome to the downtown area and the city, and when there are events such as the street faire, it would be a nice location for people to stop and spend time in a park.

"The veterans would like to put a pretty significant memorial right out in that Mac's area," City Administrator Bob Louiseau said. "The council has kind of agreed up to 1.5 acres, and they (the veterans) have come back and want the specific space identified."

Originally, the city had agreed to give the veterans up to 1.3 acres for the park, although it would be a public park and green space. That space shrunk to .8 acres after the city realized once the Minnesota Department of Transportation turns back the land, with the state's easement, a large portion of the land will be in the state's right-of-way.

While the city and the veterans can still use the green space for the park, if the state wants the land for any reason, the city would have to give it up, which would make it more difficult with monuments and such on the land.

"They've gotten a preliminary blessing on that design. What hasn't happened, is nobody said, 'you can put that here,'" Louiseau said of the monument.

Peters said designers have changed the veterans' plan, but the veterans have come back to say the changes aren't acceptable.

"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. Peters said they have been asked to do promotional things with the pavers, but have decided against that as well.

"We don't want to commercialize this," Peters said. "We will raise every dime it costs to make this park."

That cost is estimated at $250,000.

The veterans are asking the city to maintain the park, except replacing flags and similar maintenance needs.

The veterans want the monuments from the courthouse lawn to go in the eastern portion of the park. The county, Peters said, has agreed to give money for the foundation of those monuments.

Finally, besides some benches in the area, the veterans' would like to have 13 bronze plaques leading from one side of the park to the other. Thirteen represents the 13 wars the United States has been involved in, and would give a brief description of each.

"It's just a matter of confirming that the space is there," Louiseau said.

He said the city is working with Ulteig Engineers to work on the landscaping of the area and design where the monuments can go.

"They've kind of identified what they would like to see in a general area, and now it's kind of putting that together and adding to that all the elements that would need to make a functional downtown space," he said.

The main purpose and objective is to get the council to say that is the space for the park so they can fund-raise and design, Louiseau said.

He added that the timeframe for the former Mac's and Floral Impressions buildings to come down is by the end of the spring.

"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.