STAMFORD — With the ground already broken, the Veterans Memorial Park groundbreaking Wednesday afternoon took the form of a spoken thank-you note to the countless officials, veterans and city residents who helped turn around the long-neglected site.
The crowd of more than 100 gathered to mark the beginning of the multimillion dollar renovation included Gov. Dannel Malloy, Mayor David Martin, most of Stamford’s General Assembly delegation and dozens of veterans, all of whom said the new park — with a graded mount of five 22-foot monoliths — would be a better remembrance to fallen soldiers from the city.
“It will be a better place for the growth of our city and certainly a better place for our veterans,” Martin said.
The groundbreaking came after six years of work by public and private partners joining to see a new, better park, said Rick Redniss, president of the Veterans Park Partnership, the nonprofit shepherding the project.
And it couldn’t have come to fruition this year — it’s slated to re-open next November — without the last tranche of funding, $2 million, from the state.
The money was officially accepted by the city Board of Representatives Tuesday night.
Malloy, a former mayor of Stamford, said the new park will be a fitting honor to veterans in the city, including “the sacrifices that my uncles made in the Second World War and my brother made in the Vietnam War.”
He recalled registering for the draft at old Town Hall across the street.
The groundbreaking included all the pomp of a proper veteran remembrance, including a massive American flag draped over the site by a fire engine.
The flag played backdrop to a park in transition, with dust and dirt on the move, but still celebrated by the city police and fire honor guard and military-rifle salute.
Navy Capt. Philip Alan Gerard reminded the crowd that service to one’s country is not only seen on the battlefield, but also at home where neighbors take care of neighbors.
City engineer Lou Casolo said the construction alone costs $3.9 million, and the most difficult part has been the history that lies beneath the old park, which includes leftovers from what was the old U.S. Route 1 in the city.
State Sen. Carlo Leone, D-Stamford, said the park is no longer left behind, a fitting tribute to an armed forces mantra of leaving no one behind.
Leone, who lauded the last $2 million in funding when it came from the state Bonding Commission earlier this summer, said countless people played a role in renovating the park.
“Everyone in this audience had a part to play and we couldn’t have done it without you,” he said.
Patricia Parry, who lost her son Chief Petty Officer Brian Bill in the Middle East in 2011, spoke last. Parry, who found the park in disarray when she visited after he died, has been credited with kick-starting the renovation soon after his death.
“I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to be here today,” Parry said.
BETA is proud to have worked with the City of Stamford, the Veterans Park Committee, Northeast Collaborative Architects, and many others on this exciting project. Through a series of charrettes, we were able to develop a master plan that would honor Stamford’s veterans, improve connectivity, activate the park, and accommodate a wide variety of users. Construction is underway and slated to be complete in November of 2019.