VA to unveil design of controversial cemetery project

September 28, 2016

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs plans to reveal designs on Thursday for a national cemetery on the city’s north side that has spurred protest from environmental groups.

The VA paid $810,000 last September for 14.75 acres on the northern border of Crown Hill Cemetery to create the cemetery, which would include columbaria for housing cremated remains of veterans and eligible family members. Its entrance is slated for the intersection of 42nd Street and Fairview Terrace.

Opponents of the project object to the removal of old-growth trees at the site, some which they say are at least 300 years old.

“It’s a great project, but it’s the absolute wrong place to do it,” said Anne Laker, spokeswoman for the Indiana Forest Alliance, which suggested Wednesday that public opposition helped spur the VA to host Thursday’s meeting.

That’s not the case, according to Glenn Madderom, chief of cemetery development for the VA National Cemetery Administration.

“We’re getting close to finishing the design for the project, and as a part of that we do an informational update for the veteran community,” Madderom told IBJ on Wednesday.  “We’re going to show what it’s all about.”

The presentation will include renderings of the cemetery’s entrance, the columbaria and other features. There also will be an opportunity for attendees to answer questions.

“If there are question from the folks who are concerned about the project, we’ll try to answer them,” Madderom said.

Laker said Wednesday that a coalition of groups planned to attend the meeting and express opposition. The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday at the Indiana War Memorial, 431 N. Meridian St. 

“Hopefully we can create visual and verbal impact at this event,” Laker said.

The project will entail the removal of some old-growth trees--defined by the VA as having a diameter of 30 inches or greater--according to a spokeswoman for the VA National Cemetery Administration. However, the VA doesn't have an exact number of how many trees would be affected and is still working to minimize the impact of the project, she said.

The plans to be discussed Thursday are not considered final designs and could be refined further, the spokeswoman said.

The 14.75-acre parcel would be considered part of Crown Hill National Cemetery, which already exists nearby on 2.5 acres. The national cemetery is owned and operated by the VA. It is separate from Crown Hill Cemetery, which is open to the public.




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