A veterans tribute trail that will start construction this summer in downtown Eau Claire will include the roles that minority groups and women played in U.S. armed forces.
During their approval of the project on Tuesday, the City Council agreed to send a letter to reinforce their desire that information on veterans of different ethnic, racial backgrounds and women be a part of the volunteer-driven project.
“I think this is making sure we honor all veterans who served our country,” Councilwoman Emily Anderson said.
Though the trail is a volunteer group’s endeavor, it will be built on city-owned land between Forest Street and the Chippewa River, just north of East Madison Street.
The council’s letter about including information on minorities and women sought to put in writing a verbal guarantee they got earlier this week.
Mark Beckfield, an Eau Claire County supervisor who has been a lead volunteer with the trail project, gave his personal assurance at Monday night’s council meeting that minorities would be included, specifically mentioning the Hmong and Native Americans.
City Manager Dale Peters credited Beckfield for adapting plans for the tribute trail, which has been in the planning for about two years, based on feedback following meetings on the project.
The project has faced 10 public hearings in that time when seeking approval from different city and county government bodies, Beckfield noted.
The site itself is being planned as a place for veterans ceremonies, reflection and education. There will be stone monuments for conflicts going back to the Civil War, flags for each branch of service and a bell representing peace. The tribute also will include a spot recognizing Gold Star families who lost a loved one in conflict and a water feature called a “wall of tears” to represent soldiers who were prisoners of war or missing in action. A main gathering area at the north end of the trail will be built from pavers that donors buy in honor of a loved one who is a veteran.
While there will be some plaques along the trail, Beckfield noted that there will be much more information on the history of the city and those from here who fought in wars available electronically.
The trail will use technology to help tell stories of local veterans, Beckfield said, allowing their tales to be told on smartphones of people while they visit the site.
The veterans trail, which has an estimated $2.2 million price tag, will be a multi-year effort with different amenities being added from this summer through 2025.