The view of the Ash Avenue Bridge abutment at Tempe Beach Park may appear to be a purposeless concrete platform, but Tempe and the Rio Salado Foundation envisioned transforming the abutment into a memorial, a place to honor veterans through the ages, a vision that is very close to coming alive.
The City of Tempe and the Rio Salado Foundation are set to begin phase one of the three-phase construction of the Veterans Memorial in Tempe Beach Park in a few weeks.
Brad Wilde, a board member of the Rio Salado Foundation, said they are in the final stages of planning for the restoration of the Ash Avenue abutment.
Phase one includes the restoration of the Ash Avenue abutment, creation of a staircase and Americans with Disabilities Act access, as well as landscaping and lighting improvements, said Nancy Ryan, Rio Salado Project Management Coordinator for the City of Tempe.
She presented updates to the memorial plan at the sports, tourism, recreation, arts and cultural development council committee on Wednesday, Sept. 7.
“The memorial would encompass the area of the Ash Avenue, approach (the) abutment and a portion of the entrance of the parking lot of Tempe Beach Park,” Ryan said. “Construction would start as soon as all the final approvals are in.”
David Lucier, president of the Arizona Veterans’ Foundation headquartered in Tempe, anticipated that project crews would be “turning dirt” sometime in the next few weeks.
The memorial will consist of three sections: the Veterans Parade, Court of Service, and Overlook and Visitors’ Plaza.
The abutment, which is the last bridge support that remains from the Ash Avenue Bridge that was demolished in 1991, will be rehabilitated into a visitors’ center, Wilde said.
He said the Veterans Parade includes 80 large silhouettes cut from steel panels that will depict all types of veterans, men and women, in motion through the ages. It does not address just one specific conflict.
“It will be a true memorial and it will be a place of contemplation, a place of honor and a place of remembrance,” Wilde said.
Wilde said the upcoming start to construction will culminate in around three years of work.
Some of the work for phase one should be to be done by Veteran’s Day, coinciding with the arrival of the traveling Vietnam Memorial (The Moving Wall), Wilde said.
Lucier, a veteran who has served in Vietnam and Iraq, said when he returned from Afghanistan in 2008 his sister said he needed to find an “age-appropriate” way to get involved.
Being 60 years old at the time, Lucier said he looked for ways to re-integrate into the community.
“I asked Mayor (Hugh) Hallman and said I wanted to get into something good for veterans and he said I’ve started a movement to build a veterans memorial in Tempe,” Lucier said.
Lucier said he has been working with everyone involved.
“I think there’s going to be a dramatic connection between ASU, the veterans community, and this memorial,” Lucier said.
The project, which Ryan said will cost about $2.3 million in its entirety, does not have a set date of completion yet. She also said that additional fundraising needs to occur for phase two to begin.
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