New park will give veterans a place to meet, reflect

New park will give veterans a place to meet, reflect

Members of the United Veterans Council of Woonsocket met with city officials and members of the city's delegation to the General Assembly to receive a check for creation of a new park dedicated to Woonsocket's veterans. (Valley Breeze Photo by Sandy Seoane)

WOONSOCKET - The United Veterans Council of Woonsocket has plans to make use of a long-ignored plot of city-owned land, and is now in the process of building a permanent park where locals and visitors can gather and reflect, and learn about Woonsocket's extensive contributions to the nation's past military conflicts.

The park will be located on a 180-by-120-foot plot of land on Davison Street, just beside the parking lot for Rivers Edge Recreation Complex. It will serve, among other things, as a place for local veteran to hold events, services and memorials.

Mayor Lisa Baldelli-Hunt announced the plans last week and gathered with members of Woonsocket's General Assembly delegation to present a $10,000 legislative grant for the project to members of the United Veterans Council of Woonsocket.

"This is what leadership shows; what can be done by working together," said Roger Petit, vice president of UVCW.

The effort has required the cooperation of several city groups. The grant was obtained by members of the General Assembly during the last legislative session. The City Council had to approve the project and grant a permanent easement for the property. Two local students will help coordinate construction and fundraising efforts as part of their Scouting projects. And veterans will serve as the park's permanent caretakers, maintaining the landscape and structures.

"It's just a testament to how the entire community is working together to solve issues," said Baldelli-Hunt.

Work on the lot - which has been unused and vacant for the past several years - has already begun with the removal of sand and rocks from the area to create level ground.

"The land is perfect because it's 100 percent handicap accessible," said Richard Lepine, who served as Baldelli Hunt's campaign chairman before she won the mayoral office last November, and was also the chairman of the mayor's transition team.

The park will share a parking lot with Rivers Edge.

Lepine's 17-year-old twins, Chris and Jen Lepine, will both be helping with the park thanks to a suggestion by the mayor. "My kids were looking for Scout projects and they wanted to do something here in Woonsocket," said Lepine. "It's a big deal. It's going to be a significant project."

Son Chris will work to coordinate all of the parties involved in the effort, and his Boy Scout troop will take part in the landscaping as part of his Eagle Scout project. Daughter Jen, who is working on her Girl Scout Gold Award, will work on the marketing and fundraising.

"When they heard we wanted to do something in the city, they came forward," said UVCW President Richard Schatz. "It's nice to have young people involved. A lot don't know the sacrifices that were made by people who went to battle."

The lot will have a brick walkway across the middle, and the group hopes to sell engraved bricks and sponsorships to help fund the project.

"The nice thing about this project is everyone who wants to participate can participate," said Lepine.

While the group is still finalizing drawings of the layout, the plan is to create multiple monuments with tributes to soldiers who have fought in each of the country's past wars. The first monument to be erected will be built by Murray Monument Company of Blackstone, Mass., and will stand in the center of the park. It will be 7 feet tall and 3 feet wide, will use elements of water and lighting, and will be circled by three flagpoles.

Next, Schatz hopes to get working on a memorial for the "war on terror," dedicated to soldiers who fought in Kosovo, Iran and Afghanistan. The park will also serve as something of a veterans' information center, directing visitors to dozens of other war memorials throughout the city.

Officials hope to get most of the work on the park complete over the next several months, and to hold an opening ceremony on Veterans Day, Nov. 11.