For the past several years, Plymouth Mayor Kelli Slavik has lobbied for a veterans memorial in her city. Now her vision is starting to come to life.

The memorial is expected to be part of $1.4 million in upgrades planned for the city’s Hilde Performance Center in the coming year.

Up to now, the timing for a memorial wasn’t right, as the city worked through other priorities, she said. But that didn’t discourage Slavik, who serves on the city’s Beyond the Yellow Ribbon committee, which helps military families with everyday needs large and small.

Her experience with the committee has deepened her resolve to “make sure the city is reaching out to vets and that we realize the importance of their contributions to our community,” she said.

A memorial is a small yet symbolic gesture of gratitude to veterans past and present. “Military families and those that serve give up so much, and it is important to support them in any way that we can,” she said. “Many other surrounding communities have memorials. It’s something the city is lacking.”

Slavik found support for the idea at City Hall and within the larger community. Earlier this fall, city staffers floated the possibility of installing the memorial at the Hilde, which is at 3500 Plymouth Blvd. That was firmed up during a council work session on Dec. 10.

The Hilde was chosen because it’s centrally located. The place gets plenty of foot traffic at year-round events, including the popular annual concert Music in Plymouth, she said.

“We didn’t want it to be in an out-of-the-way park, but in a place where people are coming anyway, where they could see the memorial while attending events,” she said.

At the same time, the Hilde has room for quiet reflection, she said.

And it made sense to incorporate the memorial into the center’s “phase two” of development, which was laid out when the place was built in 2000.

The full Hilde plan

As a part of the phase two plan for the center, the city is looking to add a new easier-to-navigate entrance, more amphitheater seating, a few trail connections, a pond plaza and public restrooms, in addition to the veterans memorial, according to Diane Evans, the city’s parks and recreation director.

Right now, the center is tucked behind a large grove of trees. The project will “give it a better identity in the city center area” and improve the site’s overall usability, she said.

Although the particulars are still being worked out, an early estimate for the memorial’s cost is $250,350, according to city materials.

Slavik and a small group involving other city officials and representatives from the Minneapolis-based design firm WSB & Associates will work out the details.

The group will come up with a design to present to the City Council later this month or in February, Slavik said.

“We’re going to try to incorporate flags for various service branches and benches for a meditation area,” she said.

More specifically, the memorial could reference certain wars or include veterans’ names. Whether that would be through “a place [on the site] where you’d add names or buy a place on a wall or donate a bench or a tree” is still up in the air, she said.

Community groups have expressed interest in getting involved in the project a little further down the line, she said.

The city’s goal is to begin work on the Hilde upgrades this summer, wrapping it up in time for Music in Plymouth in July 2015, according to city materials.

A place to ‘gather strength’

City Council Member Jeffry Wosje is looking forward to the memorial’s completion. He has two sons who’ve served in the Navy, so the memorial will be a place of personal meaning where he could “go and reflect and gather strength from it,” he said.

More broadly, Wosje hopes the memorial helps strengthen the sense of community in Plymouth.

And he also sees it as an important enhancement for the Hilde Center. “It fits in with that philosophy of increasing the usage and desirability of the place,” he said.

 

Anna Pratt is a Minneapolis freelance writer. She can be reached at annaprattjournalist@gmail.com.