The Edmond Way of Honoring Veterans
Military veterans have been part of Edmond’s population since its founding. Some of the original homesteaders were former Civil War and Mexican-American War soldiers. Edmond’s college students have been heavily recruited for every major conflict, and Edmond’s location near Tinker Air Force Base and the National Guard headquarters has resulted in an on-going military presence in Edmond in recent times.
Although 10 individual statues pay tribute to the military services, citizens have long discussed building a substantial memorial in Edmond; a destination honoring all branches, in wartime and in peace. So, in June 2018, an advisory group was formed, comprised of both military and non-military citizens. This committee began to grapple with the monumental task of designing a monument–one that felt right for Edmond. “The late mayor, Charles Lamb, said that he hoped the veteran’s memorial would pay tribute to Edmond veterans, and do it in an Edmond way,” said Natalie Evans, City of Edmond representative on the task force.
But what makes the memorial uniquely Edmond? After two years of engaging with citizens across Edmond, a clear consensus emerged: Edmond does not want a lot of concrete! First, Edmondites want something more than just a wall etched with names. Instead, interactive technology in a covered plaza will list the names of people who have served. It can be searched, and it can be updated. “If there’s a different conflict, which it seems there will always be, then that can be added,” said Casey Tarp of Beck Architecture, the firm hired to design the memorial.
Second, Edmondites do not want a concrete-paved park. They prefer to pay homage to the nature and walking trails of the existing Bickham-Rudkin Park at 33rd and Boulevard, the location designated for the memorial.
“It’s a beautiful park, and based on feedback, we are keeping the memorial to a minimal amount of paving,” Tarp said. “We’ve kept the original trails, and we’ve only added 1.6% concrete paving to the entire project.”
Flags, Flowers and Blackberries
The design, which will not affect the current dog park, includes a few simple pieces: a flag plaza, gathering pavilion, a history walk that includes panels of Edmond’s military story, and a Heroes Journey path that meanders through a grove of trees. Each trail leads to the lake’s edge and a new fishing dock.
“We want the park to be experienced in all seasons. We’re retaining the naturalness of the park; enhancing the perennial gardens and keeping the wildflower meadow and blackberry bushes,” Tarp said. “We plan to add over 200 new trees, planted like a regimented row of soldiers.”
“There are thousands of veteran parks around the country, but this one will be uniquely Edmond,” said Mustafa Koprucu, a veteran on the committee. “We’ve engaged Edmond historians to tell, not only the story of the enlisted men and women, but also the citizens who stay home.”
Mayor Darrell Davis, who served on the Parks and Recreation Board for 15 years, applauds the work of the citizen-led committee so far. “It pays homage to our veterans and to the natural attributes of that location. And we’re keeping the blackberry bushes—so I can still have pies.”
“We’ve planned areas of quiet and formality, and areas to gather within the park,” Tarp said. “Our concept is not a morgue, it’s a place of celebration, of gathering, and of Edmond history.”
It will be uniquely Edmond.