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Trees felled to make way for fallen soldiers monument

Mar 25 2019

Lou Whitmire | Mansfield News Journal

Landscaping redesign planned at Richland County Courthouse

MANSFIELD - Landscaping on the Richland County Courthouse lawn is getting a redesign to complement monuments along Park Avenue East at Diamond Street.

Roughly 10 trees were cut down by Dolce's Tree Service on Wednesday morning, leaving the front lawn in disarray and void of any trees.

Richland County Commissioner Tony Vero said new trees will be planted.

He said clearing of the trees was not related to a proposal for a replica of the 1871 Richland County Courthouse to be built in front of current county courthouse. Historic preservation consultant Steve McQuillin of Hayesville has presented a $5 million conceptual proposal for a replica courthouse that would include retail space on the ground level, a two-story atrium, and upscale apartments with a "loft feel" on the upper floors.

According to a letter from the City of Mansfield Shade Tree Commission to the Richland County commissioners, dated March 18, the shade tree commission received a request from commissioners to remove the trees due to age, safety concerns about the tulip poplar limbs, and a planned project improvement.

County Commissioner Darrell Banks said in addition to the safety concerns, the branches were attracting birds that caused problems.

“We did that because the trees were becoming large and dangerous; they were dropping large limbs and the crows and other birds used them for a landing strip for the ‘bombing’ of our memorial,” Banks said.

A Gold Star Family Memorial will be placed in front of the administration building and the landscape will be redesigned to complement the monuments.

"The tree commission members will gladly offer any assistance in helping choose the appropriate trees as you begin your design if you desire their services," read the letter, signed by commission members Josh Maurer, Michael Henry, Doug Versaw and David Remy.

A Gold Star Families Memorial Monument is being planned for construction at the Richland County Administration Building, 50 Park Avenue East, alongside other veterans memorials that are already in place.

In January, the Richland County commissioners voted 3-0 to grant the land for this project in front of the administration building.

Medal of Honor recipient Hershel “Woody” Williams of West Virginia, at 95 the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient from the World War II Battle of Iwo Jima, came up with the monument concept.

The Hershel “Woody” Williams Medal of Honor Foundation encourages and assists with the establishment of the monuments, which are intended to honor the sacrifices, and help heal the families and friends of military members who died in service to our great country, according to a news release from local organizers.

Williams said the monuments provide the families of fallen soldiers “someplace to go and meditate and know that their loved one is not going to be forgotten.”

“This is a great opportunity to give back to the heroes and Gold Star families and friends," said Jared Smith, the committee chair of the Mansfield group working to raise funds for the monument. "An opportunity to encourage healing, and stark reminder that freedom is not free."

The estimated cost of the monument is roughly $70,000, Smith said, “But if we get in-kind donations, we can lower that amount all the way down to $55,000 or so,” he said.

Leading the fundraising for this effort will be Jared Smith, Ken Estep, Larry Moore and Bill Homer.

The Mansfield Ohio Gold Star Families Memorial Monument Committee includes Denis Nowacki, Sheila Nowacki, Lynn Feldman, Frank Reed, Ken Estep, Larry Corn; Larry Moore, Mike Bailey, Bill Homer, Doug Mosier, Bill Flanegan, Josh Hurrell, Bernie Lyons and Smith.

“Every community, really of any size, has Gold Star families in them, going back to when we first became a nation,” Williams said.

The 501(c)(3) Hershel “Woody” Williams Medal of Honor Foundation website states that the purpose of the Gold Star Families Memorial Monument is to honor Gold Star Families, preserve the memory of the fallen, and stand as a stark reminder that freedom is not free.

The proposed black granite monument features two sides. One side bears the words "Gold Star Families Memorial Monument, a tribute to Gold Star Families and Relatives who have sacrificed a Loved One for our Freedom."

The other side tells a story through four granite panels: Homeland, Family, Patriot, and Sacrifice. The scenes on each panel are a reflection of each community’s Gold Star Families and their fallen Heroes. At the center of this tribute is the most distinct feature of the monument, the cut out which represents the Loved One who paid the ultimate sacrifice in the name of Freedom, according to a news release from organizers.

To donate or for more information you can find the Mansfield Ohio Gold Star Families Memorial Monument official web page at: hwwmohf.org/mansfield-oh.html and they can be found on Facebook at: facebook.com/mansfieldgsfmm, organizers said.

The current board of commissioners - Darrell Banks, Marilyn John and Tony Vero - set aside and continue to set aside money for capital projects outside the general fund in its Richland Reinvestment Fund, Vero said. The current board built the balance of this fund to over $2 million, "and we are paying for the beautification project from there. We are not spending operating monies for this project," Vero said.

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