NEW BETHLEHEM – The Redbank Valley Veterans Memorial Park took one step closer to becoming a reality last Wednesday, as area military veterans turned over the first shovelful of dirt at the site along Arch Street in New Bethlehem. Clarion County commissioners Ed Heasley and Wayne Brosius were in attendance, along with Tina Gibbs, the constituent outreach specialist for state Rep. Donna Oberlander.
Ray Ishman, spokesman for the veterans’ group behind the project, said that the groundbreaking was the first real action on the park.
“We are on the way toward having footers dug and cement poured, and I have flag poles ordered,” he said. “Turning over the first spadeful of dirt was very symbolic. We are on our way.”
Heasley said, “It is gratifying to see our communities honoring our veterans. They have a special places in our history.”
“It is pretty exciting to see towns such as Sligo, New Bethlehem and Rimersburg building veterans memorial parks,” Gibbs said.
A color illustration of the planned layout indicated the future placement of several black granite slabs and smaller plaques on the site. Ishman also said that landscaping, several benches and a paved area will combine to make the park a restful place for contemplation and memories.
To put community veterans’ parks into perspective, most small towns in the area once featured monuments in honor of those who served in various conflicts, most dominated by a roll of veterans’ names. Over time, these have deteriorated or been destroyed. In recent years, there has been a nationwide movement to restore or replace them.
To date, Ishman said, the project is estimated to cost about $50,000 when completed, a figure that includes the price of the vacant lot in the proximity of the town’s new town center and the Redbank Valley Trail.
Along with purchasing memorial pavers for loved ones who served in the military, the Redbank Valley community is invited to make donations directly to the veterans’ park project at Redbank Valley Veterans Memorial Park, American Legion, P.O. Box 244, New Bethlehem, PA 16242.