More additions planned for Vergas park in the near future
By Robert Willams
The archway entrance is the latest installation at the continually evolving Vergas Veterans Memorial. The latest addition is one of a few more still in the works for later this year.
“People have asked when are you going to be done with this and my response is, ‘probably never,’” said committee member Lyle Krieg. “We just want to keep doing stuff to make it interesting.”
The arch was part of the original plan for the park, an installation done by Justin Helmke and his company J&H Signs of Perham.
“It’s been in the making for quite some time,” said fellow committee member Doug Safar.
Other additions coming up include granite slats in front of every flagpole depicting the separate branches of the military, prisoners of war, and a taller granite fixture installed in front of the United States flag.
The information granite additions are replacing an original plan for one big informational pillar in the center of the flags. For the time being, that space is going to remain open.
A pair of kneeling soldiers depicting both genders will also be added. Hopes are to complete that portion of the project before the end of the year.
“This is pretty much what we had decided to go with; we haven’t changed the concept as far as that goes,” said Krieg. “We went through a lot of stuff to get this far, but we didn’t stop. We just kept going.”
The committee is waiting on a right-of-way permit from the county to add more concrete slab from the existing parking area to the road.
The continual evolution of the memorial has been turning heads around town.
“I have talked to so many people who have complimented about how beautiful it is out here,” said Krieg.
He also emphasized the committee’s dedication to making the memorial a reason for residents and visitors to visit not only the memorial, but downtown Vergas.
“This is for the city,” he said.
During the planning stages, the city council was one group the committee had to be patient with and work alongside to get to this point. The council is known for being cautious in its meetings with regards to decisions and spending, something that had frustrated the group behind the Vergas memorial at times.
“They could have pushed it along a lot sooner,” said Krieg. “We were at a standstill for four to five months. We were at so many city council meetings when the topic was brought up and they wanted to table it.”
The group faced a similar situation with the council in wanting to install a sprinkler system around the perimeter of the memorial to aid in a grass reseeding project currently going on and to allow for watering during the warm months. The committee needed council approval to install the system and the city would be on the hook for the water bill.
Utilities Superintendent Mike DuFrane commented on how the city has not watered the ballparks in a decade, a job that took 23,000 gallons of water per day. The needs of the memorial are nowhere near that amount. Despite that, DuFrane was not in support of a sprinkler system giving his preference to conserve water as a main factor.
The committee is already spraying water with hoses and timers to get good grass established and members noted how the city will always be in control of the water used in a new system. The committee agreed with the conservation angle and even offered to assist with the billing if it became an issue.
Mayor Julie Bruhn suggested metering the flow to monitor usage and billing.
Councilman Bruce Albright, in attendance via Zoom, while on a fishing trip up north, put an end to the discussion with a thoughtful motion to approve the sprinkler installation at the memorial committee’s expense, as requested.
“We’ve got a very beautiful addition; it’s on public property,” he said. “The Veterans Memorial is something that Vergas and the community can be very proud of. When the Glawe’s had the memorial park there they got free city water. If the ball diamonds needed to be watered we’d water them. I think with the understanding that if we had a water shortage or needed to conserve water we have the ultimate control of it. It’s part of the community and what they’re trying to do there is make a nice looking site and I would support that.”
The motion passed unanimously.
Prior to winter, all but the United States flags will be pulled for the season. An early rain storm and freeze created removal issues last year until the temperature warmed enough to get the flags down.
The committee is also pushing to get more names for engraving to install a third pillar at the site before winter.
“We’ve got quite a few now, but we still have a ways to go,” said Krieg.
Roughly 40-50 more names are needed to complete the third pillar. There is room for eight pillars in total, potentially 10, if necessary.
Two more benches have been purchased that will be installed soon with five more on order that are available to future donors.
Granite park benches are a great way to remember a service person, family or organization. The benches are engraved for $5,000. Names to be engraved on the granite memorial pillars cost $150 each. Donations can also be made to the flag fund to help replace worn flags.
There are a total of nine flags; one American, one POW/MIA, six service flags and one Minnesota flag.
Donations are tax deductible, payable to WCI (note Vergas Veterans Memorial on memo line), and mail to West Central Initiative, P.O. Box 318, Fergus Falls, MN 56538-0318, or donate online at wcif.org/give/funds/vcf.htm.