HUNTERSVILLE – The official opening of a new park honoring members of the United States military will be held prior to Huntersville’s annual Memorial Day program on Monday, May 28.
The ribbon-cutting and dedication program for Veterans Park at Main and Maxwell will be held at 10:30 a.m. followed by the town’s Memorial Day tribute at 11 a.m. All activities will be held at the new downtown park bordered by Main Street, Maxwell Avenue and Huntersville-Concord Road.
Memorial Day ceremonies will be the main event, but the day’s activities will also celebrate the conclusion of an 18-month, community-wide effort to create a monument and park honoring all U.S. military veterans and active service personnel.
Plans for a new downtown park entered the public discussion back in 2011. An outline of a $400,000 park potentially featuring a festival lawn, performance area and a farmers market venue was among proposed projects to be funded with $5 million in parks and recreation bonds included in a $30-million municipal bond package Huntersville voters approved in 2012.
While the park was still a long-range vision, representatives of American Legion Post 321 and the Sons of American Legion (SAL) Post 321 suggested a salute to military services be included in the park. With cooperation from the Huntersville Parks and Recreation Department (HPRD) and backing from local Rotary Clubs and the SAL, the vision for Veterans Park at Main and Maxwell evolved, including a monument to all branches of the U.S. military.
Park plans grew to include a monument featuring six columns surrounding a globe mounted above a reflecting pool. The individual columns pay tribute to each branch of the U.S. military – Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard and Merchant Marine – and the globe symbolizes the far-reaching contributions made by the country’s past and present military personnel. An amphitheater and festival lawn are included in the park amenities, and last month crews relocated a 27-ton railroad caboose – a downtown landmark since 1998 – to serve as the performance stage backdrop.
“The plans for the park have evolved,” HPRD Director Michael Jaycocks said, “and the Sons of Post 321 and the Rotary Cubs deserve a lot of credit for making the monument the centerpiece.”
A lengthy process
Groundbreaking ceremonies for the park were held prior to a Veterans Day parade in November 2016, with local Rotarians and representatives of American Legion Post 321 already active in a campaign to help finance the monument. The SAL group performed site work, including the removal of structures and the recovery of bricks from the historic “ice house” building on the park site. Rotarians sold inscriptions on those bricks which have been incorporated into the monument.
Sam Putnam, an SAL officer, said the group did everything it could to help the town save money on the park and monument project.
“We did the demolition work on the site so the town didn't have to pay for it,” Putnam said. “Then the town directed the money saved to other parts of the project.”
Putnam said the SAL organization also held several events and set up concession stands at HPRD functions to raise money for the park.
“Everything we did was for the veterans,” Putnam said. “This project is for them, and we did the work because they shouldn't have to.”
As early phases of park work began, the parameters of the project expanded, generating delays.
Plans were already in motion for the town’s Main Street Upgrade and the placement of stormwater infrastructure for that road improvement project was incorporated into the park site work. During that construction process, a new round of issues with existing utility lines cause additional delays. In the end, stormwater and road work connected with the Main Street Upgrade became part of the $1.6-million park.
After Monday’s ceremonies, the main activity planned at the park is the renewal of the LaLaCaboosa Concert Series. The Thursday evening concerts will begin June 14 with The Catalinas as the guest performers.