Vets hope park fixes will accompany new bridge

The ongoing construction of Veteran’s Bridge on North Fountain Avenue has some local veterans pushing for upgrades to the memorial park next door.

Memorials at the park have been subject to vandalism, while other features such as the stone stage are crumbling, said Randy Ark, a veteran and member of the Military Order of the Purple Heart.

Ark and other Purple Heart members have plans to install a new memorial in the park later this fall and hope the new bridge means some landscape upgrades will be done to the area.

The memorial park should be a place veterans can visit with pride, Ark said.

“It could be the town dump and veterans would still come, but I want it to be a nice place for them to be proud of,” he said.

The splendor of the new bridge will be awe-inspiring, Ark said, and he wants the memorial park to match that.

The Springfield Conservancy District owns the creek-side land the park sits on, said Pete Noonan with the district.

Once construction is done, the district will look to do some upgrades to support the look of the bridge, Noonan said. But no specific plans have been made as of now, he added.

The park is not only important to local veterans, Ark said, but is also a symbol of the city and county to those visiting the area.

“It’s important to all veterans and it will be important for them to have a place they can call their own,” he said.

Ark and other local veterans have raised thousands of dollars to put in new memorials in the park, he said. A new bench and stone are scheduled to be put in later this fall.

Construction of the new $2.4 million bridge, which will honor veterans, is on schedule to be completed by November, said Springfield Engineer Leo Shanayda.

Part of the plans do include some new landscaping features around the bridge, he added.

Landscape will surround the bottom of the new steps that will lead down to Buck Creek, Shanayda said, and more will be up near the connection of the bridge and bike path.

Damage to the land caused by the ongoing construction will be fixed by the company once it has finished its work, said Leann Castillo, director of the National Trail Parks and Recreation District.

The conservancy district contracts NTPRD to maintain the land.

The bridge reconstruction will be paid for mostly through a $1.7 million grant from the Federal Highway Administration municipal bridge fund, according to public documents. The city also received about $590,000 from the Ohio Public Works Commission in 2013, which will be used as local match money.

In 2013, the city spent approximately $1.2 million in federal funds to complete a streetscape project on North Fountain Avenue between City Hall and the bridge, which included new street lights. In 2010, the city also completed a similar streetscape project on North Fountain Avenue between McCreight Avenue and Veterans Park.

Construction will not affect the bridge’s use as part of the large Memorial Day Parade each year, including a wreath-throwing ceremony over Buck Creek, city officials said.

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