By Jef Rietsma
Vicksburg municipal officials are in the early stages of planning a high-profile veterans’ memorial.
Village Manager Jim Mallery broached the subject during the board’s May 16 meeting. He said a location in Vicksburg’s Historic Village has been identified following collaboration between two local bodies.
Mallery said Alex Lee, Vicksburg director of public engagement, has played an integral role in the proposed memorial. Mallery also noted the concept has required a close working relationship between the village’s Historical Society and its Parks and Recreation Committee. Planning also involves Kalamazoo-based architecture firm Eckert Wordell and Vicksburg’s Frederick Construction.
Mallery shared good news regarding the involvement of the two companies.
“Part of (Eckert Wordell’s) proposed services is that they are donating half of their investment to this project, and Frederick Construction is donating 100 percent of theirs, to provide the necessary design services to assist the village with what this park would look like,” Mallery said. “I think it’s worth pointing out that was never asked for or suggested.”
Mallery said the project is on an ambitious timeline and the goal is to have the memorial done by the first week of November. He added the village will ambitiously explore grants and use fundraisers to help cover costs. He did not offer a proposed expense of the memorial.
Council members Gail Reisterer and Julie Merrill indicated they would prefer a design that is less contemporary and more in line with the historical theme of the memorial’s surroundings.
“If we’re going to put this in the Historic Village, then it should look historic and not modern … and that’s the way I feel about the village itself, too,” Reisterer said.
Mallery said the design is in its preliminary stage and, in his opinion, already reflects a historical aspect. He said Eckert Wordell will lend its expertise to the task and craft a design for council approval.
Council member Rick Holmes said he is glad to finally see plans moving forward on a worthy veterans’ memorial.
“The current veterans’ park, I’ve displayed my discouragement of ever calling that piece of dirt a veterans’ park, so I’m all for this monument (and) finding a more suitable location,” Holmes said, referencing Veterans’ Park, on the north side of Prairie Street, west of the railroad crossing.
Holmes also inquired about whether local VFWs and other veteran organizations have been made aware of the project. He said they may wish to consider financially helping out with the expense.
“There will be (discussion) … we felt the next stage was to get conceptual designs and also the estimated cost to see if it’s realistic to pull off by this November,” he said. “So, that’s where we’re at.”
Village President Tim Frisbie said a veterans’ memorial at the Historic Village allows for ample parking, and it has open space and a pavilion for coverage from the elements.
He emphasized that the Historical Society fully supports the idea of placing the memorial in the Historic Village.
In the end, the council authorized Mallery to enter into an agreement with Eckert Wordell and Frederick Construction to proceed with the conceptual phase of the memorial.
In other news, Mallery said the balance of downtown work was to be completed by May 27. Also, a ceremonial ribbon cutting to commemorate the full opening of downtown Vicksburg is scheduled to take place June 2 at the redeveloped Oswalt Park.
By Jef Rietsma