Soldiers' Memorial Grove inches closer to a renovation

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By Kate McNeil
kmcneil@riverdalepress.com

A quarter-million-dollar renovation of the neglected Van Cortlandt Park Memorial Grove could become a reality, if Councilman Oliver Koppell has his way.

An unknown spot to many, Memorial Grove is a cluster of oaks and maples planted in 1939 at Broadway and West 246th Street to honor Bronx veterans who died in combat during World War I and II and the Korean War. The grove originally contained 39 bronze plaques - 37 for soldiers, one for President Franklin D. Roosevelt and another for the Gold Star Mother's Group - at the base of each tree. Today, only 19 plaques remain after severe erosion and vandalism.

Mr. Koppell said the grove is high on his priority list for 2009 capital requests, which are due in June. Community Board 8 also made the restoration a budget priority, but was told the city Department of Parks and Recreation did not have the funds and that it should seek help from local elected officials.

"I'm convinced we should do something," Mr. Koppell said.

Two local veterans, Herb Barret and Don Tannen, have worked tirelessly over the past year to see the site restored. This past November about 100 community members gathered to pay their respects to the fallen soldiers on Veteran's Day. The 39 flags placed in the ground that day still remain.

The Parks Department estimates it will need $250,000 to restore the grove. The project would include building a new fence, planting additional shrubs, cleaning debris and resoiling the area. The price does not include recasting lost bronze plaques, something Mr. Barret hoped would happen.

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