Belding Freedom Wall project moving forward

By Cory Smith • Last Updated 12:20 pm on Thursday, September 20, 2012

The site of the new Belding Freedom Wall, located just west of the Pere Marquette Depot on Depot Street in downtown Belding, is currently in development and continues to take shape on a weekly basis. — Daily News/Cory Smith

BELDING — Three and a half years ago Belding resident Denny Craycraft dreamed of building a single wall with a list of names to celebrate local veterans who fought in World War II. The project would cost approximately $9,000.

Standing in front of members of Belding City Council Tuesday night at the Pere Marquette Depot, Craycraft updated the council on the project being built outside the building just feet from where he was standing.

Craycraft described the project as “a real roller coaster,” and that makes sense because that $9,000 Freedom Wall has since turned into the development of a much larger Veterans Memorial with bids now reaching $75,000 in total costs.

Craycraft admitted building the wall has become an overwhelming experience, but he explained to council members that because of the backing of the Belding community, costs have come down by nearly $35,000 less, thanks to donations and volunteers.

“With people in the community standing up, doing voluntary work, (such as) our electricians, our cement people, our businesses, I could sit here for a half hour and name them all … we are going to make it happen,” he said.

Craycraft listed several large donations, including free excavation work to start the construction.

The cement pad below the wall will cost $8,000, but is being installed at no cost thanks to another donation.

The steel structure frame for the wall will be built on donated time as well.

In all, Craycraft said total costs for the project have come down to between $35,000 and $45,000 because of the donations and volunteer hours.

“This town, this city council, this mayor, you should be very, very proud of what you have in this city,” Craycraft said. “I’m overwhelmed. A lot of families have come up and donated money. I can’t begin to tell you just how proud you should be of this community. When this gets done, it’s going to be something really special for this town.”

The concrete sub-wall base of the Belding Freedom Wall has been installed along with support rods. The wall is expected to be completed and revealed to the public on Veterans Day, Nov. 11 of this year. — Daily News/Cory Smith

Craycraft’s most recent request to the council Tuesday night was to have temporary bleachers installed on Veterans Day on Nov. 11, when the wall will be revealed to the public at 11 a.m. Craycraft estimates 500 to 1,000 people will be on hand to see the wall celebrated on that day.

“That shouldn’t be an issue,” Mayor Ron Gunderson told Craycraft with a smile.

After years of meeting with council members, with many heated conversations and disagreements along the way, only smiles and laughs were shared between Craycraft and council members Tuesday night as Craycraft updated the council.

Coming at a cost of virtually nothing for the city, being built with funds raised by Craycraft and other community members, Craycraft said this is a “win-win” for the city of Belding.

As Craycraft finished his presentation to the council, City Manager Randy DeBruine responded simply saying, “That’s awesome, Denny.”

The only business item scheduled on the agenda, the Fire Act Grant, was postponed to a later meeting, as council members wanted more details on the issue.

Belding Police Chief Dale Nelson and Fire Chief Gregg Moore both updated the council on the happenings around the city.

Nelson said complaints to the police department are up for the year. So far this year, 859 complaints have been reported, compared to 842 complaints in all of 2011.

Nelson said he’d like to see that number come down, but was happy to see people responding well to issues such as front-yard parking and citations of blight.

“I’m excited to see that people are taking some ownership and staying within compliance, doing what the ordinance is requesting of them,” he said.

Councilwoman Andrea Belding said the Belding Community Garden celebrated the finish of its first year this past weekend and expects the garden to expand in its second year.

“Seven of the current 16 slots available have already been filled for 2013,” she said. “As of today, we’ve delivered and donated over eight bushels of produce to the Belding Food Pantry.”

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