City of Big Rapids
Veterans and their family members have been seeking a location to construct a Veterans Memorial in Big Rapids for many years. In 2014, city staff was approached by members of the Big Rapids AMVETS Post 1941, American Legion Post 98 and DAV Big Rapids – Chapter 18 to begin work on the memorial. They wanted to partner with the city to find a suitable location.
After consultation with city staff and Park Board members, an underutilized city park – Holland Park – was selected as the location. From there, a community effort began to raise money and awareness, and construct the Holland Park Veterans and Homefront Heroes Memorial. This unique park not only recognizes the brave men and women who have served this nation courageously, but also recognizes the families that sacrifice so much as well.
The memorial was dedicated in 2016 and was designated a part of the Blue Star Memorial By-Way.
Every community has public space that could be used more productively. Also, communities frequently have locations that honor veterans and many times those memorial locations are scattered across the community. Veterans organizations are passionate about their work and I believe many municipalities could work with their veterans groups to replicate the work we have done in Big Rapids. It is great to have central if not singular location to recognize veterans and their sacrifice.
Creativity and Originality:
There are many unique aspects of the project including its Blue Star designation, lighted flags recognizing every branch of the military, stamped concrete, sitting areas, and bricks honoring local veterans and their families. However, the most creative and original portion of the project is the recognition of the sacrifice that families make when their son or daughter, mom or dad, is away serving the country. Families bear the weight of having someone away for an extended period of time and this park and memorial provide a way to applaud that dedication to the country.
The Big Rapids community put its heart and soul into this effort. Veterans and their families are held in high regard in this area and having this memorial in one of our parks has brought people together from all walks of life. The park and memorial are located on a section of Business Route 131 that is in need of redevelopment and shortly following this public investment we have seen investment from the private sector with the adaptive reuse of a dilapidated building into a new, modern office use almost immediately across the street.
Also, we now have a venue for the many Veterans events that happen in Big Rapids. The benefit of that is hard to quantify, but the City has heard from many sectors of the community expressing their heartfelt appreciation of the work that was done to make the project a reality. There is never a downside to bringing the community together.