BELDING — After months of comparing sites, viewing designs, creating a sub-committee and receiving much input from members of the community in Belding, the new Veterans Memorial finally has a home.
Members of the Belding City Council voted 4-0 during Tuesday night’s meeting to approve the area to the west of the Pere Marquette Depot building on Gibson Street as the future home of a Veterans Memorial in Belding.
“The Downtown Development Association (DDA) Board, Recreation Advisory Board and the Planning Commission have all weighed in on this issue,” City Manager Randy DeBruine said. “The DDA Board and Recreation Advisory Board support that the property to the west of the Depot be used for a Veterans Memorial. The Planning Commission previously passed a motion to have the memorial located in a current park.”
The depot location lies adjacent to Central Riverside Park.
DeBruine said the DDA in particular believed that there is future commercial development potential at the Breimayer site, located on the corner of Congress and Bridge streets across from City Hall. Belding resident and veteran Denny Craycraft had hoped that the empty lot would be the location chosen for the Memorial.
“I fought the battle for the citizens of the city because they wanted that (Breimayer) lot,” said Craycraft, who spearheaded the Veterans Memorial project. “Granted, it didn’t get done that way, but at this other site we now have the potential to receive grant money, something we couldn’t have received at the Breimayer lot.”
Craycraft went as far as submitting nearly 1,000 signatures on a petition from Belding residents to the City Council stating a desire to have the Veterans Memorial located at the Breimeyer site.
“I want the community to know that I was still disappointed the city didn’t go with the Breimayer lot, because that location was the will of the people,” he said. “But I’m going to get more cooperation with the city now with the Depot location and sometimes you just have to step back and let it happen.”
According to Craycraft, the first portion of construction will be the Freedom Wall, which will be built west of the Depot as well. His goal is to have the wall built before Memorial Day.
Craycraft hopes to begin construction as “soon as possible” which can happen after official architectural designs are submitted to the city, a process Craycraft expects to take a week.
“Once we have the Freedom Wall built, we can piece the rest of the memorial area together in stages,” he said. “Our main focus first is to get that wall up, because we are losing time every day that we don’t start construction.”
The memorial isn’t expected to cost the city anything. Craycraft said he and his supporters will build the project through donations, which he expects to come in more readily now that a location for the memorial has been chosen.
Councilman Mike Scheid, who originally favored the Breimayer location, said he now feels the location west of the Depot will make for a better option.
“I’m excited about this,” he said. “With the rails to trails (River Valley Rail-Trail) going through there, I keep looking at this and there’s just so much potential here, I think it’s going to be a great site.”
Scheid described the Veterans Memorial as a “living project,” with a focus that should first be on the Freedom Wall.
“Let’s get the wall up and then once that is up we can start working on the rest of the memorial,” he said. “I think it’s a good project to have for Belding. I think it’s going to compliment the downtown area very well, I think it will be very visible to the project and it was something that needed to be done.”
After months of discussion, Councilwoman Andrea Belding said she is glad to see the issue come to a close.
“I’m glad we’re at this point where we can finally allow Denny and his group the chance to start working on the memorial,” she said. “I truly hope they meet their goal (of building the wall) before Memorial Day.”
In other news, the council approved to accept the community recreation plan with a 4-0 vote. According to DeBruine, the recreation plan is designed to create a long-range vision for park and recreation needs, aid development of recreation programs and facilities and provide a guide for the city from 2012 to 2016.