Since 2014 -- during the planning stages of Upper Arlington's centennial celebration -- a committee of residents has discussed ways of adding to Mallway Park in recognition of local veterans.

The Veterans Memorial Committee, working in conjunction with the Upper Arlington Parks and Recreation Department, has conceptual plans for an estimated $456,000 project and received approval from Upper Arlington City Council on Feb. 11 to begin fundraising. That campaign started earlier this month.

Committee member Erik Yassenoff said the group has focused on reaching out to community organizations, including local veterans groups, and businesses that have a record of supporting veteran recognition or services.

He said $15,500 had been donated as of April 14. The group also has secured $100,000 in grant money from the state's capital-projects budget.

As the committee continues to solicit support from various groups, it also has created avenues for individual donations through the Upper Arlington Community Foundation's website, uacommunityfoundation.com.

"We're more than willing to accept donations from individuals at any time through the Upper Arlington Community Foundation," Yassenoff said. "At the site's 'donate' button, you just make sure you say it's for the Upper Arlington Veterans Plaza project in the comments section.

"There will be a larger, communitywide fundraising effort at a later date to solicit donations from the community."

Mallway Park is about a 1-acre space at 2096 Arlington Ave. A veterans-memorial gateway, featuring two stone pillars that remain standing, was constructed in 1946.

Since then, small additions have been made to the memorial, including plaques remembering local men and women who served during the Korean and Vietnam wars. In 2017, the Upper Arlington Serendipity Garden Club raised more than $1,500 to have a Blue Star Memorial marker installed at the site.

A Jan. 22 staff report to council from Parks and Recreation Director Debbie McLaughlin said the conceptual design "has been created and vetted through public forums."

"The concept for the Veterans Plaza is to create an inviting space for reflection, education and appreciation for all those who serve our nation," McLaughlin wrote. "The project will expand the current service-recognition features and retain the large open space within Mallway Park for various leisure uses.

"The details of the veterans-recognition elements will be developed upon completion of a private fundraising campaign."

In February, Yassenoff said the concept was scaled down and moved closer to Arlington Avenue in an effort to preserve more greenspace at the park.

The committee also is interested in installing monuments or display panels that would recognize local service members.

"We're in the initial steps of starting to put together a separate group to determine the content of the panels and what materials they will be," Yassenoff said. "We welcome any thought on the content and what should be on the panels from anyone in the community.

"On the display panels, our goal is not to glorify war. We need to acknowledge conflict but also highlight veterans in peacekeeping missions, natural-disaster recovery efforts and commitments to serve the community by veterans beyond military service."

Yassenoff said the committee plans to create a social-media presence, likely to include a Facebook page and Twitter account, to help collect feedback from the public.

He said the committee hopes the project will serve as an educational device for the community and local schools.

Ideally, the group hopes to break ground in June 2020, but the project's pace will be dictated by fundraising progress.

"Over the past three weeks, we've had conversations and engaged a lot of entities," he said. "We have a number of commitments that are to be determined, so we are very optimistic that the effort is going well.

"Upper Arlington has a long history of public service and achievement in the business world and the academic world. We're not always as recognized for military service from residents in our community and veterans living in our community."

Yassenoff said Upper Arlington is "one of the few communities in Ohio to not have a modern or enhanced veterans memorial in the last 50 years."

"The commitment to our nation, our state and our community is above and beyond, and it needs to be recognized in as many ways as possible," he said.

nellis@thisweeknews.com

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