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Pippi Mayfield, Forum Communications Co., Published December 27 2009

Veterans, Detroit Lakes spar over plans for park

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.

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 monument 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 since it abuts Highway 10, may want it back in the future.

Detroit Lakes previously had a park for veterans – 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 park could then be incorporated into the massive redesign of Highway 10 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 veteran’s park be placed on the east side of the land.

However, City Administrator Bob Louiseau said if the state ever wants to use its right of way on the west side of the land, the city would have to give it up and the monument would have to be moved.

“They’ve gotten a preliminary blessing on that design,” Louiseau said, said about the veterans and their monument. “What hasn’t happened, is nobody said, ‘You can put that here.’”

But Peterson, 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 where the veterans would like to see the monument placed, but the veterans’ objective is to get the City Council to say that is the space so they can begin raising 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.”

Council members will discuss the issue at their Jan. 12 meeting.

Pippi Mayfield is a reporter at the Detroit Lakes (Minn.) Tribune, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.