Construction begins on landmark Veterans Park, War Memorial

DEARBORN – Construction on a new Veterans Park and War Memorial here began this week.

The installation, which will celebrate the achievements of veterans, honor all branches of the service and pay respect to those who sacrificed for our country, is in front of Henry Ford Centennial Library.

With an anticipated dedication following the parade on Memorial Day on May 30, residents will see accelerated work being done on the site.

Progress has already begun to remove the inoperable fountain in front of the library, 16301 Michigan Ave. Twenty-four cherry trees will be planted within the next few weeks.

The four black obelisks of the War Memorial, currently located now at City Hall Park, will be featured prominently at the new Veterans Park and War Memorial.

Other key design components are memorial walkways, etched and lighted glass panels, benches and green spaces. In addition, the flags of all five branches of the service, plus a battlefield cross and an eternal flame, will keep the focus on those who died in service.

The location in front of the library ensures that the park and memorial is in a visible spot to those traveling on Michigan Avenue and the tens of thousands of people who use HFCL each year, and indicates that the park and memorial is focused on educating the public about service and sacrifice.

The new park and memorial will also be the site for ceremonies, like the service that takes place following the Memorial Day Parade, and for the annual Flag Day ceremony and other commemorations.

The process of creating a landmark Veterans Park and War Memorial has been ongoing for years, once the city committed to selling City Hall to Artspace for what is now City Hall Artspace Lofts, a live, work and exhibit facility for artists. The city no longer owns the property on which the current war memorial sits at City Hall Park.

Mayor John O’Reilly Jr. spearheaded the initiative.

“This is an important milestone and demonstrates that the service of Dearborn’s veterans is an important part of our community’s history that should be preserved and shared with each generation,” O’Reilly said.

The commander of the Dearborn Allied War Veterans Council agreed.

“Almost 4,000 veterans currently live in Dearborn, hundreds more travel here daily to work or attend university,” said Sean Green who sat on the park and memorial planning committee and is commander of the DAWVC. “This site will honor and renew the stories of those men and women who throughout history have fought and sacrificed to protect our freedoms. It will also serve as an additional educational vehicle for all who visit the library.”

Dearborn hosts the oldest Memorial Day Parade in Michigan and will mark its 92nd year in 2016. It is also one of the largest parades in the country, featuring more than 80 groups each year. The city and the DAWVC also present ceremonies on Flag Day, Korean War Armistice Day and on Veterans Day.

Multiple memorials exist throughout the city, including ones at Fordson and Dearborn high schools, the grounds of the Ford Community & Performing Arts Center, the grounds of Bryant Branch Library, and inside the Dearborn Administrative Center.

The library fountain has not worked since a pump went out in 2011. Estimates to fully restore the marble fountain were estimated at the time to cost more than $1 million.

The park and memorial is made possible through a contribution from AK Steel. The architect is Neumann/Smith Architecture and the general contractor is Tooles Contracting Group, LLC.