Veterans Tribute project facing naming hurdle

Local News

A $2.2 million project honoring local veterans is closing in on breaking ground, but finalizing the name of the space is stirring up controversy.

The name of the game is the name.

Sounds a little confusing?

Well the name of the space off of Forest Street in downtown Eau Claire is confusing, and its stirring a whole lot of controversy.

According to a 2017 comprehensive plan for the North River front Neighborhood, it’s called the “Forest Street Community Park.

Meanwhile, Eau Claire Community Services Director, Jeff Pippenger says it’s called “the Forest Street Special Area.”

But, in a resolution presented to the Eau Claire County Board, it’s called the “Forest Street Greenway.”

The space is also home to the Forest Street Community Garden.

So the while the name of the space is not clear, over the last five years, project leaders of the $2.2 million dollar Veterans’ Tribute say the plans for the space have been crystal clear all along.

“There’s been dozens and dozens of meetings and to say that someone it blindsided but not knowing that the veterans want to build this project, you’re living under a rock,” says project organizer, Mark Beckfield.

That’s why, when a proposal to the board to support naming the space “Veterans’ Tribute Park” was postponed indefinitely, Steve Chilson, a member of the Eau Claire County Board, said, “I was absolutely shocked that there was any issue, let alone the response that it got.”

Eau Claire County Board member, Brandon Buchanan says last year the Eau Claire County Board voted to give just under $500,000 to support the “Veterans’ Tribute Trail.”

“The only issue, right now is do we reclassify parts of the land the tribute trail is not even using without the prior consultation with the people that are using that land?” he adds.

Buchanan adds the problem is the timing and communication with local stakeholders of the land.

“What I’m asking for is diversity in how we name the park and maybe how we maintain it,” says Steve Wagener, who has volunteered at the community garden in the past.

Beckfield stresses, the city says the project had to be approved before the naming process could begin.

“Some people say what’s in a name? In this, the name is everything,” says Beckfield.

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