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Boulder City man leads charge for monument replica park

Boulder City has a reputation among local veterans as being pro-veteran. With active American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars organizations, the city is also home to the Nevada State Veterans Home, the Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery and Veterans Memorial Park on Veterans Memorial Drive.

Now, retired Marine Corps veteran Jim Ward of Boulder City has proposed an ambitious attraction called Guardian Park.

“I’ve been working on this project for about five years now,” Ward said. His proposal, a cornerstone of his BeforeTheyGo nonprofit organization, hopes to build full-scale replicas of several national military monuments, the originals of which are in Washington, D.C. To round out the attraction, he wants to include a visitors center, gift shop and performing arts space.

Ward appeared before the town’s City Council and explained his vision and at the same time asked the council members how he might go about seeking city land for the project.

“On June 16, they ratified a memorandum of understanding,” Ward said. But determination of lease details and easements or other conveyance methods are not yet specified. “We have not determined that yet,” Ward said, but he is pleased as to how things are slowly moving forward.

“What has been discussed is an easement in my hometown,” the Boulder City native said. “I grew up there. The park is a great complimentary project to what already exists.”

Ward sees the park as a tremendous tourist attraction and said it would be a way to continue to draw tourists to the area, especially since a planned city bypass might serve to keep many tourists away. “The bypass will be built, and we do have a traffic problem. We (Boulder City) are pretty much a mom- and-pop operation, and the bypass will have unintended consequences. With the current bridge (over Hoover Dam) and the lake, and the planned bypass by the dam, your next connector is the 215, which means nobody is gonna turn around and go back to Boulder City.”

Ward feels his attraction would draw individuals into the town itself and aid local businesses.

“Veterans Memorial Park was the original name, but I changed it to Guardian Park to include firefighters and law enforcement personnel,” he said. “There could be another name change in the future.”

And in fact there is already a small park in place with that name. Although an area along Veterans Memorial Drive was discussed, Ward said he was open to other locations. “We have FAA height restrictions with the airport across the street, but there are variations,” he said. “And we would like to replicate some of the monuments and memorials that could easily reach those heights.”

Boulder City’s city manager, Vicki Mayes, said: “The council did support the idea. We would provide land along Veterans Memorial Drive. Personally, I think if they would bring it to fruition, it could serve our community well. I think the park concept is a natural fit for Boulder City.”

Mayes said that if approved, the city could provide an easement, “plus a large area where they could lease a building. There would be compensation for the city on the parcel.” She pointed out that there are time limits for Ward to make things happen, but Ward points out that he remains confident.

Noting that a bridge around Hoover Dam was built jointly named for the late Nevada Gov. Mike O’Callaghan and U.S. soldier from Arizona Pat Tillman, who was killed in Afghanistan, Ward said, “More and more people are visiting the dam, now that you can visit without getting run over. The economy will rebound, the city will rebound, it will get better.”

He pointed out that “there is nothing binding about the agreement with the city if we cannot get the funding.” But he said, “We have until June 30, 2013, and we are way ahead of schedule on that.”

During public comments at the council meeting, resident Laura Godby Smith cautioned the members regarding the magnitude of the project. She said more information was needed regarding costs associated for the building and maintenance of a facility and memorials, as well as any additional city infrastructure.

Resident RoseAnn Miele said although the concept of the project was admirable, it would seem to require an extraordinary amount of funding. She suggested that residents should have an opportunity to discuss the project and provide input. She wanted to know how the project might impact city services.

On his BeforeTheyGo website, Ward discussed Boulder City as a location for the park using logic he said comes from the late Mickey Mouse creator Walt Disney. Ward pointed out that DisneyWorld was built in Orlando, Fla., because Anaheim, Calif., the home of Disneyland, was not convenient for two-thirds of Disney’s potential customers.

“The same reasoning applies to Guardian Park,” he said. “Its location in Southern Nevada makes socio-economic, educational and commercial sense.”

Journalist and author Chuck N. Baker is an Army veteran of the Vietnam War and a recipient of the Purple Heart. He is the managing editor of Nevada’s Veterans Reporter newspaper and the host of the “Veterans Reporter Radio Show” on KLAV (1230 AM) from 8-9 p.m. Thursdays and the “Veterans Reporter News” at
2:30 a.m. Fridays on VEGAStv KTUD-Cable 14).

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