Since 2006, Post 88 in Hankinson, N.D. has been developing 17 acres just outside the city for the public, and with some unexpected features: a walking/bike path, an indoor classroom, a rustic campground and a canoe-kayak area on South Lake Elsie. A five-flag memorial waves above it. Now the Legionnaires and local Sons of the American Legion have begun work on the final facet, "the climax," of the park: a veterans memorial, said Legionnaire and project coordinator Dwight Boucher.
The land was deeded to the post in 1945, but serious development began in 2006, Boucher said.
"When we first started, our intention was to do a veterans memorial, but monies are hard to come by for a veterans memorial, so we decided to lean toward education and environmental things. That's how it evolved. From the educational standpoint, we were able to obtain funds to develop the classroom," he said.
Boucher said they were able to raise $300,000 in grants for the previous projects. In the time since, community groups, schools, Boy Scouts and other organizations have used the indoor and outdoor spaces for learning and recreation.
The post is now able to move forward with the veterans memorial itself, which will be an amphitheater-like pentagon with 55 granite slabs that can hold 935 names.
So far, Boucher said, they have collected more than 200 names. If all goes well, they hope to be finished with construction by the fall and hold a dedication in the summer of 2017.
After more than 10 years of Legionnaires' and Sons' efforts, Boucher is excited to see it "come to fruition."
"I'm a retired individual, and I've spent the greatest majority of my time out there. I enjoy every minute of it, but it would be nice to see a finished product.
"Nationwide, I think we're seeing more veterans memorials.... We want to be part of that," Boucher said.
The Legion Learning Site and park is located at 16021 94th St. SE, Hankinson, N.D.
To help fund this project, donations of $125 are required for each name inscribed. Boucher said it is open to all veterans. Interested parties can contact the post for a form.