March 24, 2022 |
In Saratoga, building a memorial to fallen war heroes has been no “walk in the park.” The intent, of course, is to build a park. Now it’s bogged down in negotiations over land.
After being stalled for years, a renewed effort to develop the memorial adjacent to Veterans Island as a tribute to fallen American heroes had been picking up speed under a new administration.
The effort began a decade as a tribute Staff Sergeant Tyler Pickett, a Saratoga High School graduate, killed in Iraq. Over the last year, the project has taken on a broader scope.
At the last town council meeting, Councilwoman D’Ron Campbell presented plans for curb and gutter to be done this year. Campbell also said the park’s focal point memorial will be installed at the end of summer.
Pictured above: File photo of Saratoga Town Hall/Police Department. Photo by Cali O’Hare/Bigfoot 99.
The monument to be installed at the Never Forget Memorial Park is part of the Platte Valley Art Council’s ongoing Public Art Project, which was awarded a $122,000 state grant late last year. At the same time, multiple fundraisers, including ones initiated by local grade-schoolers collecting their pennies, nickels and dimes, have been held to help underwrite the cost of the memorial.
Recently a property issue cropped up, posing another obstacle. A narrow strip of unused and unmaintained land owned by the Saratoga Resort and Spa runs north and south along the west side of Arrowhead Drive across from the microbrewery and teepee hot pools. It adjoins town property where the park is planned. The town would like the property to improve parking and access to the park.
Doctor Michael “Doc” Janssen owns the resort and the sliver of property in question. Mayor Creed James said Janssen is interest in sapping the land by the propose park with similar sized piece of town-owned property at Veterans and Myrtle. Both lots are under a half-acre in size. Mayor Creed James said the town lot is .47 acres. Janssen’s property is .37 acres. Mayor James said both lots need to be appraised before moving forward with a swap.
The mayor said he had reached out to several appraisers but had not heard back yet. James said acquiring Janssen’s property is important to developing the memorial park in a way that works for locals and visitors alike.
The mayor asked for motion to approve going out for a “not-to-exceed bid” for the appraisals. It never came. Councilman Jon Nelson said he had no objection, but suggested the negotiations between the town and the private land owner should tilt toward a donation aimed at promoting the public good, as well as the private landowner’s own benefit in terms of additional parking and the park space for the enjoyment of the resort’s guests.
We reached out to Doc Janssen for a response to state of negotiations. Through a spokesperson, Janssen said, “He was trying to make a land exchange and a family donation to help the town finish the park project but he doesn’t know where the town is on that offer.”
The council did not make or approve any motion to spend money on a appraisal for either property. The mayor said he would try to meet again with the property owner.