Unanimous enthusiasm replaced disagreement regarding the location of Davenport’s future Veterans Memorial Park after a presentation at Wednesday’s city council meeting by the committee tasked with recommending a site.
In October, aldermen had a spirited debate about whether to name the former RiverGulf Grain riverfront parcel Veterans Memorial Park, with Mayor Bill Gluba eventually breaking a 5-5 tie, forcing veterans interested in seeing a park to look elsewhere. At the time, aldermen agreed to put aside their differences and support creation of a veterans task force that would report back to the council with a recommended site.
In the past 90 days that 10-member group toured 16 potential sites, broke them down based on various criteria, and finally settled on Crescent Park, an undeveloped area along the Mississippi River immediately west of Centennial Park between the Marquette Street boat ramp and the Crescent railroad bridge.
There was some initial grumbling about the park being shoehorned in as a smaller part of the overall Centennial Park, which itself was built on a former city landfill. But after seeing preliminary designs that feature an earthen promontory, meandering paths and an amphitheater nestled into a spot with commanding views of both the Mississippi River and downtown Davenport, aldermen were sold.
“That’s a pretty dadgum good design,” said Alderman Mike Matson, 8th Ward, who has been the fiercest champion of creating a veterans park. “It almost brings a tear to your eye to think that could be on the river for veterans.”
The design literally brought a tear to the eye of Alderman Bill Edmond, 2nd Ward, who got a little choked up after viewing the presentation.
“As someone who wasn’t particularly welcomed home from my war, it warms my heart to see this park,” he said.
Zach Peterson, a city designer who assisted the task force, noted the park fits in well with the long-range RiverVision plan for that section of riverfront. It likely will be phased in — as were Centennial Park components such as the skatepark, sprayground and dog off-leash area.
Initial elements of the new park likely will be construction of the large, 50-foot high promontory berm and an entrance area with flagpoles and possibly small sculptures. The longer-range plan calls for an observation spire or other large memorial at the crest of the manmade berm.
David Jensen, a veteran who chaired the task force, said the group is forming a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation to raise funds and otherwise support creation of the park. All the current members of the task force, as well as some aldermen, plan on joining that organization, he said.
There still may be some funding squabbles going forward, as evidenced by two aldermen voting no on a couple of items on the consent agenda linked to the former RiverGulf Grain site. The two items were setting preliminary plans and specifications for a bid for a $250,000 project to get that site cleared of concrete debris and seeded this spring.
Aldermen Matson and Edmond want money diverted from that project to the new Veterans Memorial Park, and voted against those two resolutions. Alderman Bill Boom, 3rd Ward, who serves as liaison to the Davenport Levee Improvement Commission, agreed to take that request to the commission — which has discretion to spend its budget up to $500,000 without council approval — to see if there is interest in reallocating the funds. However, Boom said, it is unlikely there will be support, as the $100,000 of the $250,000 project came as a result of negotiations with RiverGulf at the time of its departure and planning for that site was going on before a veterans park was conceived.