Eau Claire County supervisors unanimously gave their support to an effort to create a spot in Eau Claire to honor local veterans and educate people about their service.
The County Board voted 26-0 — three supervisors were absent — on Tuesday night to lend its endorsement to a veterans tribute planned along the Chippewa River in Eau Claire.
“This is something the community needs to be involved in and get behind,” county Supervisor Colleen Bates said.
Bates credited fellow county Supervisor Mark Beckfield, who was absent from Tuesday’s meeting, for his work on the veterans tribute committee that has been developing the project for two years.
If approved by the city in upcoming weeks, the proposed tribute would be a quarter-mile-long paved trail with stone monuments alongside it representing different wars and branches of armed services. Old Abe, the bald eagle that accompanied local soldiers into the Civil War, would be one of the tribute’s focal points.
Several veterans wearing baseball caps and shirts commemorating their service spoke to the County Board.
Joe Heil of Eau Claire said many communities throughout the state — including some much smaller than Eau Claire — already have veterans memorials.
“It is time that we in Eau Claire County do the same,” he said.
Local Gold Star mother and Patriotic Council member Kaye Olson said veterans events have been held in different places throughout Eau Claire, but the tribute planned along Forest Street would be a permanent place for ceremonies.
“We will have a place to go and celebrate our military holidays,” she said.
Olson noted there is a memorial in front of the County Courthouse, but it’s a small one with little space around it for gatherings.
In addition to the acknowledgement of local veterans’ service, the proposed tribute’s other merits were also lauded.
“Bottom line is this goes far beyond a veterans tribute trail,” former state Sen. Dave Zien said.
Himself a veteran and advocate for them, Zien said the tribute would help attract veterans conventions, which would aid the local lodging and tourism industries.
The tribute’s educational merits were also espoused as a way to teach stories of local veterans to students ranging from grade school on up to those attending UW-Eau Claire.
“Eau Claire has such a rich history of sending our sons and daughters to war as far back as the Civil War,” said Angela Deutschlander, an Air Force veteran and member of the tribute committee.
The group planning the tribute has its eyes on an open, grassy section of city-owned riverfront property along Forest Street that has limited development potential because it’s in a flood plain. The tribute would be parallel to the street — spanning from an Xcel Energy substation to a parking lot by city’s central maintenance building — and work around community gardens currently at the site.
“The green space is in my district,” county Supervisor Tami Schraufnagel said. “I wholeheartedly support the project coming forward.”
The veterans tribute now is slated for a vote at the April 26 meeting of the city of Eau Claire’s Waterways and Parks Commission before seeking City Council approval on May 9.
Eau Claire County Veterans Tribute Foundation has a $2 million goal for its fundraising efforts and is planning for construction in 2019.
Contact: 715-833-9204, firstname.lastname@example.org, @ADowd_LT on Twitter
» Tax-deductible donations can be sent to Eau Claire Co. Veterans Tribute Foundation, P.O. Box 252, Altoona, WI 54720.