La Crosse Park Board OKs veterans memorial for Riverside Park

After lengthy discussion, board members also put a hold on future memorial requests pending guidelines

LA CROSSE (WKBT) — The La Crosse Park Board approved the City Vision Foundation’s plan for a granite and bronze sculpture memorializing veterans in Riverside Park.

Two board members voted against the plan Thursday, partly questioning its location just south of City Vision’s sculpture, titled “A Simpler Time,” of a girl, a boy and a dog adjacent to the Mississippi River levee, as if welcoming visitors.

After approving the project, the board declared, after nearly an hour’s discussion, declared a moratorium on requests for memorials in parks until the city’s Parks, Recreation & Forestry Department develops guidelines on such proposals.

City Vision proposed the veterans memorial project in 2017, when the board approved the concept. The project recently came to the board again, but action was deferred until the city’s Historic Preservation Commission approved it.

La Crosse sculptor Mike Martino is working on the sculpture, which is expected to consist of an eagle perched atop an American flag. The project is expected to be completed in the fall.

Parks Director Jay Odegaard said an alternative site, near the La Crosse Center, was considered but deemed unworkable for a variety of reasons.

Foundation vice president Carol Gross said the memorial would be important for veterans and families and loved ones of veterans to reflect on their sacrifices, while also providing “a respectful place to find peace.”

City Vision is a nonprofit organization dedicated to beautifying downtown, as well as making it safe. Its projects have included

City Vision, which has received contributions from several businesses and individuals, also is raising money for the project, with a goal of $500,000. People can donate on the organization’s website.

Some people had questioned the need for a veterans memorial in Riverside, when Veterans Freedom Park on the North Side already exists.

Discussion of future memorial requests came after Odegaard told board members his staff has been mulling developing a master plan for Riverside Park. He requested guidance on how to handle the dozens of memorial requests staffers receive to memorialize a loved one.

“You’d be surprised at the requests,” he said, mentioning one request to spread someone’s ashes at third base at Ericson Park.

“If we had things written down,” he said, staffers would be able to “check a lot of boxes, answer a lot of questions” to provide a consistent approach.

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