Veterans park urged for base
The proposed $4 million, 2-acre site in Los Alamitos would include play areas and memorials to wars past and present.
By SCOTT MARTINDALE
THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
LOS ALAMITOS – A year-old plan to build a one-stop resource center for military veterans on the Joint Forces Training Base has taken on new life, with base officials proposing a $4 million veterans park to surround it.
The two-acre park would include memorials to wars both past and present, a children's playground and recreation area, and personalized bricks for veterans. The public park would be anchored by a veterans center offering health and social services.
"We looked at everything we might need," said Capt. Aaron Tom, project officer for the park. "It's gotten bigger as it goes on."
Base officials met Friday with about 80 representatives from area veterans groups to discuss the feasibility of the project and to form a volunteer committee that could solicit donations.
Veterans at the meeting, who traveled to the base from across Los Angeles and Orange counties, expressed concerns about long-term upkeep of the park and the estimated $4 million price tag.
"We don't carry that kind of money, but our members could back it," said Ned Metsch, commander of American Legion Post 133 in Huntington Beach. "The most important thing will be getting people's time."
The Los Alamitos park concept is the latest Orange County proposal to pay tribute to America's servicemen and women. Irvine is looking at two proposed veterans memorials – one in the Great Park and a second in Northwood Community Park.
Last month, the Irvine City Council approved $150,000 toward the Northwood memorial. The Great Park memorial project is moving forward, although funding sources have not been identified.
Military officials in Los Alamitos said they are optimistic that local veterans organizations will agree to sponsor various components of the park. The remainder of the funding could come from grants and private donations, they said.
Base officials also have proposed an ambitious timeline for completion of their park, suggesting that a dedication ceremony be held on Veterans Day of this year. But they acknowledge that the park likely would have to be built in phases over a longer time span.
"We have a huge and growing veterans population," said Col. Jane Anderholt, the base's deputy commander. "We need help getting the word to them about the benefits out there."
The veterans resource center, under construction just inside the base's main entrance, will be converted from a long-shuttered military store. Two groups, Amvets and Veterans Affairs Healthcare System in Long Beach, have already agreed to participate in the center, officials said.
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