By Kary Askew
Community members in St. John’s, Michigan, are concerned about the continuing vandalism on the Veterans Memorial located on North Clinton Avenue.
“Unfortunately since the year it’s been dedicated, there have been some people who have no conception of correctness and they don’t have any…concern or compassion for those of us who consider it sacred,” said Dennis Scott, the chairperson for the Clinton County Veterans Memorial Association.
The memorial has had numerous incidences, said Scott. His statement was echoed by his vice chairman, Dale Brown. They pointed to instances where people rode bicycles, skateboards and even drove snowmobiles through the memorial.
Scott and many other veterans and community members, have personal connections with the memorial because they worked on it from conception to dedication, over an eight year period. The memorial was dedicated on July 4, 2006 and stands with a cannon at the front. Leading from the cannon, there is a brick pathway, some with names engraved on them, down to the sleek black stones arranged in a half circle which have the veterans names engraved on it and surrounded by patriotic flags.
The monument honors individuals from Clinton County, Mich. who have served and died in the Civil War, Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam War and Iraq War.
The main conflict with the unwanted traffic barreling through the majestic monument is caused by its location. The monument is located along the fifth longest contiguous non-motorized recreational trail: the Fred Meijer Clinton, Ionia, Shiawassee (CIS) Rail Trail.
Jerry Jaloszynski, the Green Space Commission Coordinator of Clinton County, who has been working closely with a committee on the CIS Rail Trail, thinks that when the memorial was built, the location of the trail was disregarded. Although the conflict of respect for the memorial is challenged by people enjoying the trail, Jaloszynski thinks that the location of the memorial creates an opportunity to bring attraction to the area.
“I think there are benefits both ways because the trail is going to draw people to the memorial as well as the memorial which is going to draw people to the trail, creating symbiotic relationship between the two.”
Dave Kudwa, an engineer who worked for the Trinity Engineering and Survey and the Veterans Memorial Committee on the original design agrees with Jaloszynski on the opportunity the memorial’s location presents, but is also concerned with the vandalism.
Kudwa has recently been involved with a new design for to adjust the memorial.
“We worked with the veterans committee and MDNR [Michigan Department of Natural Resources] on an option where the rail trail would still go through the memorial but would route around the northern end of it.
“We were able to divert bike traffic through there without bikes having to stop and go through the center of the memorial, but it still brings people to the center of the memorial where they could stop and appreciate and enjoy it but still meets the requirements of the rail trail that goes through there,” said Kudwa.
The new design for the memorial is to be completed at some point in 2014, said Kudwa. Even with the new adjustments for the memorial, it is still important to the Veterans Memorial Committee that the importance and respect the memorial deserves is evident and protected.
“We want people to understand that this is the same as standing in a graveyard on Memorial Day, that’s what the monument is,” said Scott.