It’s well-documented that Indianapolis’ park system pales in comparison to those of many cities with which we compete—and that’s no small issue as companies increasingly base decisions on where to invest and hire on quality-of-life issues.
So we are encouraged by the recent groundswell of support for turning 15 wooded acres on the northern edge of Crown Hill Cemetery into a city park.
That said, we feel for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which has been working for years on its plan for a veterans’ cemetery in Indianapolis—a worthy endeavor. In September 2015, it paid $810,000 for the Crown Hill property, which would house a series of columbariums containing cremated remains of veterans and eligible family members.
It’s hard to understand why it took so long for opponents to come out of the woodwork. Before buying the land, the VA sought feedback from a variety of government offices and from the public. It also publicly announced the land purchase.
But opponents did not come out in full force until last fall—driven by concern the cemetery would endanger old-growth trees on the property, some more than 300 years old. The controversy came to a head on March 13 when two dozen protesters showed up at the property to block initial site work. In response, the VA put work on hold while it reviews its plans.
Among those urging the VA to cancel the project is Mayor Joe Hogsett, who’d been strangely silent until announcing on March 8 that his “dream would be for these woods to become part of the city’s park system—one that is an enduring monument to our fallen heroes and one that preserves sacred ground that has been undisturbed for hundreds of years.”
While we can quibble with the timing, we agree with the sentiment. Indianapolis through its history has too often made parks an afterthought, rather than embracing their power to attract residents and add to the city’s vitality.
As a result, Indianapolis at times has missed out on golden opportunities to add parkland—such as when the Benedictine monks at the turn of this century put the 176-acre St. Maur Monastery on Michigan Road up for sale. The property ended up being acquired by Indianapolis philanthropist Christel DeHaan, who constructed homes there for herself and family.
Let’s not make the same mistake this time around. The ranks of opponents calling on the VA to find another site are growing by the day—and even include some veterans. It’s time for the VA, which has acted responsibly and reasonably up to this point, to pull the plug and find a new site.•
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