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Planning progresses for a memorial to Farmington's veterans

For more than a decade, groups in Farmington have talked about building a Veterans memorial somewhere in the city. Now, the idea might finally become a reality - and within a couple of years, too.

A group of Farmington residents has been meeting for a couple of years to develop a plan. They've had a few setbacks, but they've still made progress. They have a rough idea of where it will be located. They have a design in mind.

They have a plan. They want to fine-tune it a bit, but committee member Leon Orr is finally ready to talk - a little bit, at least - about the concept for the Farmington Veterans Memorial.

A visible tribute

"It's a memorial to acknowledge all veterans and a memorial to pay homage to those who have given their life for the service of our country in all the wars of the past," Orr said.

Finding a location for such a poignant tribute was a long process. At first, committee members considered finding a location downtown, but limited space and a lack of visibility from major roads hindered the idea. At one point, a planned future park along the Vermillion River, near the Spruce Street bridge, was proposed as a location.

But ultimately, committee members decided Rambling River Park provides the visibility and accessibility the committee was looking for. Current plans call for the memorial to be installed on the west side of Rambling River Park, near where the tennis courts are located. When the city of Farmington redesigns the park in a few years, the courts will be moved, which will provide more space for the memorial, Orr said.

"We all liked this particular location. It's visible, both driving and walking. It would be a natural location," he said.

Because the location is in a city park, the memorial committee will have to bring a plan to the Farmington City Council for approval before the site is secured.

The design

With city officials' blessings, the committee will propose a two-part memorial.

As part of the process, Orr had visited many memorials around the area. They were nice, but one he'd seen in a magazine a few years ago stuck in his mind. He looked up the community online - it was somewhere in New Jersey - and presented it to the committee. With a few changes, the group agreed on the design.

What they came up with is a granite replica of an American flag, folded into the format for military funerals. It has a blue background with white stars, and will rest on top of a four-foot wall that will have the service emblems of all military branches etched in. In the center, just below the folded flag, is a granite tablet with all of the names of local service men and women who have died in service.

On the other side of the wall, the POW/MIA flag will be etched into the wall.

The second element would be about 30 feet away from the flag, where the committee proposes to a erect a life-size bronze statue of a soldier in full military gear, saluting the folded flag.

Between the wall and the statue, planners hope to install some nice landscaping and perhaps some benches.

When researching the New Jersey model, Orr found a contact number for someone who had worked on the memorial. When Orr called the man and described plans for the local memorial, the man was more than willing to help. It turns out the New Jersey contact was once stationed at the NIKE missile base in Castle Rock.

"It was really a very unusual thing to happen," Orr said.

Moving ahead

There is no timetable yet for the memorial. Orr said organizers have a few more details to iron out. The group has to make a presentation to the city council to get approval for the site. They'll have to figure out things like maintenance and liability, too.

Meanwhile, they're trying to determine a cost for the project. They'll ask for donations from organizations and businesses, but some of those groups do not work up budgets until the fall. They're also working up a presentation with photos and a drawing of the proposed memorial.

All this means the group can use more help, particularly once they get going on fundraising. Anyone interested in getting involved is welcome. The group meets at 7 p.m. on the third Tuesday of each month at the Farmington VFW on Third Street.

Orr is hopeful that Farmington will finally get its veterans memorial.

"I think it will be successful," he said. "We'll get it done."

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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