CROWN POINT — Progress has been slow, but things are moving forward for the long-awaited Lake County World Wars I & II Veterans and Holocaust Memorial in Crown Point, officials say.
Mitch Barloga, president of the Friends of the Veterans Memorial Parkway (FVMP), which oversees the project, said the Lake County commissioners appropriated $100,000 toward the design and development of the memorial in 2015. Shortly after that in 2016, the Crown Point Plan Commission approved the site for engineering and drainage plans.
Over the last three years, construction has been delayed for the future memorial at of U.S. 231 and 113th Avenue due to a number of roadblocks including resources, fundraising and site development.
“In Lake County alone, 1,200 people died protecting this country in World War I and II. That’s quite eye opening. It’s important for us to honor those who died and their families and friends, as well as the veterans who are still left,” Barloga said. “For their sake, we are hoping to finally get this accomplished before the last World War II veteran from this county passes. That’s a very big goal for us.”
The memorial will consist of three monuments. Two will be placed on opposite ends of a long walkway, which will serve as a timeline detailing the history between both world wars. A series of plaques will be installed giving visitors an opportunity to understand the events between both world wars. A small amphitheater dedicated to the victims of the Holocaust also will be constructed.
In addition, the Veterans Memorial Trail is planned to run the length of the site and continue along U.S. 231 to Hebron.
Before FVMP can move forward with final planning stages of the memorial, Barloga said the organization will have to work closely with the city to relocate a cell tower that was placed near the site with its utilities running directly underneath it. Although FVMP has a 99-year lease to the land, the city owns the property.
Until those utilities belonging to Verizon, AT&T and NIPSCO, are removed, nothing can happen to the site, Barloga said.
Moving utilities a big issue
“The big issue is moving those utilities that run through the middle of the site. We’re trying to work on some easements that we are looking to move utilities into. With everyone involved, it gets kind of technical in the weeds,” Barloga said, claiming that work has been slowed a bit due to a lack of communication with city officials.
“With the city, the delays have been a bit frustrating, but at this point we’re in negotiations. We’re putting more pressure on, and we want to city to get up and start moving to help us forward with it. … I think from their perspective, it's taking longer than they expected to be coordinating with the entities on this."
Crown Point Mayor David Uran said the city has been accommodating throughout the duration of the project ever since the property was leased to FVMP under former Mayor James Metros.
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He said the city’s legal team has been working closely with the utility companies to address easement problems and has offered help to FVMP with securing grant opportunities.
“We would like to see things move forward and a memorial built just as much (FVMP). We have asked for letters of commitment they have on record, for a list of people ready to work with labor and what the plans are for everything. We want to see that,” Uran said. “We have employees ready to help when they’re ready.”
Having a memorial like this built in the hub of Lake County would be an honor and is an important tribute to residents, Uran said.
“We will always support the endeavors that honor our veterans and troops. We have the freedoms we do today because of them,” Uran said.
Aida Nozick, executive director for the Jewish Federation of Northwest Indiana, said the future memorial will be “very unique to the Region” and can be used as a learning tool. The federation is assisting with Holocaust portion of the memorial.
“I can’t think of another memorial like this anywhere near us. We don’t have a huge Jewish population here, but we still need to honor those who were impacted by the Holocaust,” Nozick said. “As Holocaust survivors are rapidly aging and passing away, we need to continue their work of telling the story of what happened."
For now, FVMP officials are conducting a nationwide search for artists to develop the three monuments for the memorial. An award of $5,000 will be given to an artist for the Holocaust monument and $8,500 to another artist for the World Wars I and II monuments.
The Crown Point Community Foundation awarded a $5,000 grant to help secure the artists, Barloga said.
The goal is to have construction officially start by the end of the year and the project completed by 2021, Barloga said.