Council gives allowance of old wastewater site for “memorial forest”

YORK – There is the possibility a “memorial forest” will be established, to honor fallen veterans and first responders, at the site of the former wastewater plant in York.

The city was approached by the Upper Big Blue Natural Resource District, after that entity was approached by the Nebraska chapter of Honor and Remember.

UBBNRD’s Chrystal Houston spoke to the city administration and council this past week, to explain the concept and ask for consent to allow this now unused space for such a project.

She said Jim Meier from Honor and Remember approached the NRD, “as their dream is to have memorial tree plantings across the state,” to honor those who died in the line of service.

In Meier’s proposal to the NRD, he said the memorial forests “will be sanctuaries that deepen and enrich the symbiotic relationship between people, trees and the land in powerful and verifiable ways. A tree named after each Nebraska fallen military and first responder hero will be a living testimony that Nebraska honors and remembers them which provides lasting comfort and support to the fallen hero’s family. Each tree will serve as a steadfast sentinel, protecting the land as did each fallen who served as a sentinel, protecting and defending our country and communities.”

“They want to do these in populated areas and he’s hopeful to have one York County,” Houston said.

She indicated the local NRD is supportive of the project “and we began looking for a location. He said there are 60-70 fallen heroes from York County who would be represented by these trees. Right now, we are just looking for permission to allocate a space before going out to see if there is enough support for the project, for the trees, signage, etc. The city would not be providing any funds.”

She said the local project would likely cost about $30,000.

“This ask, today, is if the location can be used for this project and they (organizers) would come up with the funds,” Houston added.

She said the NRD’s role would be the planting and care of the trees.

The space, owned by the City of York, is about 6 ½ acres, which Houston said the NRD’s engineer indicated would be enough room for about 80 trees.

If created, there would be signage, as well as a data base, so individuals could find specific trees dedicated to specific heroes.

The benefits of having it at this particular location, she said, would be that it is adjacent to the existing Beaver Creek Trails and there wouldn’t be a lot of additional land work.

“We thought this could be a great use of this ground,” Mayor Barry Redfern said to the council. “I think it would be really cool there.”

Houston said if the project would take place, there is the possibility it could start this fall. If not all details fall in place by that point, it would begin the fall of 2024.

“In order for them to do the fundraising, they need to have this space permission to start,” Redfern said.

All the council members voted yes to give permission to use that space for this purpose.

York now joins the following entities that have already given permission for land to be used: Omaha, Lincoln, Papillion, Chalco Hills and Horning State Farm Demonstration Forest. Ongoing discussions are being held with Grand Island, Hastings, Bellevue, Auburn, Nebraska City, Central Platte NRD, Lower Elkhorn NRD, Lower Niobrara NRD, Lower Platte North NRD, Middle Niobrara NRD, Middle Republican NRD, Nemaha NRD, Upper Niobrara White NRD and Scottsbluff.

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