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Our view: Recent gifts give boost to vets' park

Herald editorial board

It's been a big month for a Grand Forks project. On Dec. 6, the Veterans Memorial Park board announced a $93,683 donation from Rydell Auto Center of Grand Forks. The dollars were raised through the local dealership's annual car show, with the Rydell family providing a matching donation.

This week, another generous donation has emerged in the form of a $250,000 gift from the Engelstad Foundation.

That comes to more than a third of a million dollars in gifts to a memorial that will commemorate past and future veterans for generations to come. Will these stunning examples of philanthropic benevolence help spur even more donations and push this project to completion?

We hope so.

The Grand Forks Veterans Memorial Park is located on a six-acre site near the roundabout at 24th Avenue South and 34th Street, north of Menards and the Columbia Mall. It has quickly emerged from a vacant lot donated by the city to what we believe will be a destination point in Greater Grand Forks.

When completed, it will include obelisks, park benches, flags, picnic shelters and an anchor from a Navy ship. Those who would like to memorialize a veteran can purchase stones — measuring 8 inches by 12 inches — etched with the veteran's name. The cost is $200 — a pittance, considering the permanence of the memorial.

In February, the City Council unanimously voted for a ceremonial name change of the street in front of the park to "Veterans Memorial Parkway."

The centerpiece of the park will be a 6 foot-by-40 foot black granite wall, etched with images illustrating America's wars and conflicts throughout history.

Boosters of the park would like to see decommissioned aircraft or tanks someday placed at the site. We would too.

In the end, two things about the park captivate us.

First is the effort of its board to include all veterans—of all wars and conflicts, of all races and demographics and of all ranks. As we said in this space in March, it would be easy to simply push forward on the park and make it a shrine to only the most obvious veterans. But that's not what this project is about, and the people behind the park sincerely want the community's input. We assume that openness is attractive to the donors who already have come forward.

Also, we are captivated by the generous donations upon which the park depends. It started with the city's interest. It has continued with various donations—both cash and in-kind—that are pushing the park toward its goal of being completed sometime in 2019.

Consider, for a moment, how large a $93,000 donation really is. Or $250,000. And also consider what those newsworthy gifts might do to spur further donations to the project, expected to have a final cost north of $1 million.

The gifts this month from Rydell Auto Center and the Engelstad Foundation are impressive, and both will have a lasting and beneficial effect on this community.