A group of Upper Arlington residents hopes to bolster the community's memorial to honor those who've served in the U.S. military.
In 1946, a War Memorial Gateway featuring two stone pillars, arched stone walls and an "honor roll" of Upper Arlington residents who served in World War II was constructed at Mallway Park, a small city park at 2096 Arlington Ave. that's flanked by a business district and Jones Middle School.
Since then, there have been small additions to the memorial, including plaques remembering local men and women who served during the Korean and Vietnam wars; last summer, the Upper Arlington Serendipity Garden Club raised more than $1,500 to have a Blue Star Memorial marker installed at the site.
Along the way, there also have been a couple false starts on projects to honor local servicemen and women at the park. A "Flame of Freedom" gift from the American Legion in 1969 was extinguished in the 1970s due to a national gas crisis and in 1990, a fundraising campaign to relight the flame proved unsuccessful.
Now a group of roughly 10 UA residents, both veterans and nonveterans, is seeking to enhance the public tribute.
"Every community should be honoring the service of veterans, not only to the community but to our nation and the state," said Erik Yassenoff, a former Upper Arlington City Council member and member of the Veterans Memorial Committee. "Upper Arlington is one of the few communities that does not have a proper memorial for its veterans and we do feel that it's time."
Thus far, the committee hasn't formalized designs for its project and it hasn't secured official approvals from city officials to do anything at Mallway Park.
However, Yassenoff said, initial discussions with city officials have been positive, and his group is soliciting feedback from the local business community and the general public to determine how best to move forward.
To that end, the group plans to set up an information booth at the Upper Arlington State of the City and Community Fair, which will begin at 5 p.m. Monday, Jan. 22, at the city's Municipal Services Center, 3600 Tremont Road.
The committee also plans to meet with representatives of Mallway businesses and Upper Arlington schools in February, and it will host a public meeting to discuss and collect input at the district Administration Offices, 1950 N. Mallway Drive, at 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 6.
The committee also will collect public input through the city's Open Town Hall feature on its website. That discussion forum tool can be accessed through the city's website at uaoh.net.
"We're now at a point that we have an initial concept that we're starting to present," Yassenoff said. "Nothing has been finalized.
"This month, we want to begin reaching out to residents and holding a couple forums. We're still open-minded, but we'd like to get to the fundraising phase of this sooner rather than later."
Yassenoff said the committee's preliminary discussions have included possible plans to enhance the memorial with fencing along the entryway walls and fresh landscaping. The group also hopes to create a permanent fixture in the center of Mallway Park to honor veterans.
"There's going to be center fixture," Yassenoff said. "That fixture has yet to be determined and we want to have public input on what it should be."
Yassenoff said initial estimates put the price tag on the committee's concept at about $750,000; the group plans to fund the project through donations.
According to the current schedule, the committee hopes to give a formal presentation with finalized plans for the memorial to City Council at a conference session March 19. The group then would seek a council resolution March 26 to go ahead with the project.
"Under a perfect timeline, we'd like to be breaking ground in spring 2019," Yassenoff said. "That's going to depend a lot on the fundraising side of things."
Upper Arlington Parks and Recreation Director Debbie McLaughlin said the city is eager to see plans further developed.
"The city's role has been to work with the committee to develop a concept design that expands and allows for ongoing recognition of residents that serve in the armed forces," McLaughlin said. "The city is supportive of this committee's efforts to update and enhance the veterans display in Mallway Park, creating a more prominent recognition, as well as updating the park.
"This will add to the long history of Mallway Park as the city's location for recognizing military service."