BELDING — What originally began as an effort to resurrect a freedom wall to honor area veterans in Belding has grown into much more in just four short months.
By Memorial Day 2012, Denny Craycraft, the Belding veteran spearheading the freedom wall project, is hoping to officially break ground on the first phase of constructing a veterans park in Belding.
According to Craycraft, the first phase would pertain to the construction of the freedom wall, with construction of the park itself coming in a separate phase depending on where the park will be located.
The location of the park was the central issue debated during the Belding City Council meeting Monday night.
Craycraft approached the council because he was disappointed in the Belding Planning Commission’s first recommendation of a location for the park to be constructed.
During a Planning Commission meeting Dec. 13, the commission passed a motion to show support for a veterans park in Belding and also passed another motion to have the park located in an already existing Belding park.
“I feel like we got blindsided pretty heavy this week,” said Craycraft to the council. “For four months I’ve been coming to these meetings and we’ve finally broke ground on where to place this park, only to run into a lot of opposition to use the space we’ve selected and I can’t figure out why.”
Craycraft said he believes the empty lot at the corner of W. Congress and Bridge Street in downtown Belding would be an ideal spot to locate the park.
Belding Planning Commission member Deb Curler said she didn’t believe the commission had all the details Craycraft mentioned at Tuesday night’s meeting when they made their recommendation a week earlier.
“My impression was we have plenty of space in town to place the wall,” Curler said. “I didn’t know all of these other details about the park, especially the renderings drawn up of the park. We thought it was just the one wall and we figured one of our existing parks offered plenty of space.”
According to City Manager Randy DeBruine, the empty lot, located across from city hall, is currently used as extra space for events during Gus Macker tournaments and during Labor Day festivities.
Planning Commission member Michael Hughes said had he seen the drawings and new information brought before the council at Tuesday night’s meeting, he may have voted differently.
“I wish we had been presented a more spelled-out plan,” he said. “It would have persuaded me to vote differently.”
All council members said they were in favor of bringing a veterans park to Belding, regardless of location, but Councilwoman Andrea Belding told the crowd of nearly 40 people that many factors have to be taken into consideration before any decision can be made.
“With this proposed empty lot, you have to look at maintenance issues, parking, making sure there is enough space,” she said. “I think the idea of this park is a great idea, but I believe there needs to be more structure to this plan and answers to these questions before any official decisions are made. It’s going to take time.”
No official decisions have been made at this time, but Craycraft is hoping the Planning Commission eventually lands on using the proposed empty lot as the official location for the new veterans park.
“To see a park like that right as you drive through downtown Belding, I think that would be something truly special for the people of this city,” he said.