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Fitchburg veterans, city leaders hope to revitalize veteran’s park

FITCHBURG (WKOW) —  Plans are in motion to revitalize Fitchburg’s Gorman Wayside Veterans Memorial Park.

Right now, the small park on S. Fish Hatchery Rd. includes one statue and city Alder Tom Clauder said more often than not the park is empty.

“They clean it up, we lay a wreath and the rest of the year we seem to forget about it,” he said.

Clauder said that tends to be Memorial Day, and next week, the park will once again host some of Fitchburg’s ceremonies. Still, Clauder said Fitchburg can do much more.

For the past year and a half, he’s been working with a number of veterans and community members to turn the 18 acres surrounding the Robert Schley memorial statue into a veteran’s park including pathways, benches and a marker commemorating other Dane County veterans and every branch of the military.

“No one has told me yet it’s a really, bad idea,” he said.

Fitchburg’s Parks Commission has already approved preliminary plans for the park. Clauder will present it to the Common Council next week.

Though the plans involve major changes to the landscape surrounding the memorial, he said the purpose of the park will remain the same.

“It gives the city an opportunity to remember the veterans that not only gave their lives but are in the service right now,” Clauder said.

That’s why Fitchburg resident and army veteran Marc Jones said he joined the project, in the hopes the park can become a destination.

“We’re hoping that this can be something that’s used on a regular basis,” he said.

Jones said he didn’t serve in combat but his brother did, in Vietnam. He said his brother’s experience taught him how important it is to show support for veterans.

“Some of the Vietnam vets weren’t treated as nicely as they are today and he certainly was not. It was a bad time in our country,” he said. “So this is the least we can do.”

Unfortunately, Jones said his brother died before the project could break ground.

“He was aware that we were doing that before he passed,” he said. “My passion is to honor him.”

Now he said he’s looking forward to that project coming to fruition.

“It started just as a conversation and now we’re moving forward and I hope we’ll be able to get the park started later on this year,” he said.

At this point, Clauder said they don’t have a set budget for the project. Once the Common Council determines whether or not it can move forward, he said they’ll look at what’s available from the city’s park fund. Based on that, he said the planning committee is hoping to match that fund with donations.

“It’s a year and a half of work but it’s not quite done yet,” Clauder said.

Michelle Alfini

Reporter, WKOW

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