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State targets Carlton County for veterans cemetery

Carlton County is on track to become the site of the newest veterans cemetery in the state of Minnesota. That will mean the more than 46,000 veterans who live in this area of northeastern Minnesota and northwestern Wisconsin will have a final res...

Carlton County is on track to become the site of the newest veterans cemetery in the state of Minnesota. That will mean the more than 46,000 veterans who live in this area of northeastern Minnesota and northwestern Wisconsin will have a final resting place and lasting memorial closer to their homes and loved ones.

"Having all too recently buried a brother in a veterans' cemetery out in D.C.," commented State Senator Tony Lourey of Kerrick, "I know the importance to our veterans of having a respectful place for them to meet their final resting place. I'm very pleased to have a local option for those brave men and women serving today."

The proposed state cemetery could also mean the influx of some 40,000 visitors to Carlton County annually, as well as the creation of three to four new jobs to staff it, according to Duane Brownie, Carlton County veterans service officer.

Governor Tim Pawlenty made the announcement of the proposed plan on Tuesday in St. Paul during the annual "Veterans on the Hill" day at the state capitol. Prefacing his remarks by saying he hopes to make Minnesota "the most veteran-friendly state in the union," he said the location of a veterans cemetery in the northern part of the state was one of the initiatives brought forth as part of his 2008 Military and Veterans Support Package.

In his address to legislators, representatives of the state's veterans organizations and members of the media, Pawlenty outlined a plan to work with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to transfer a site of approximately 67-69 acres that lies within the outlying boundaries of the 8,781-acre Jay Cooke State Park to the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs (MDVA) for development of a new state veterans cemetery. The largely flat, lightly forested parcel of land lies along County Road 18 and can be accessed by either County Road 1 from the north or Highway 23, also known appropriately enough as the Veterans Evergreen Memorial Scenic Drive, from the south.

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The only other such cemetery is located at Camp Ripley near Little Falls, which has served as the final resting place for some 2,700 of the state's veterans since 1994. That cemetery recently underwent a $3 million renovation, which Brownie said he hopes will provide the footprint for the proposed new cemetery.

The latest state cemetery project must first gain legislative approval to transfer the land from the DNR to the MDVA. If and when that happens, then the state will apply for funding for design work and construction of the project, estimated to total some $8 million in all. Annual operating costs, which will be the responsibility of the state, are expected to amount to some $300,000 per year. Brownie indicated the application for federal funding must be made by October 1, and if funded, the project could begin construction within the year.

"This project, if approved, would be a very good move for the state," concluded Brownie, who indicated he believes it to have "a very good chance" of getting the nod from both the state legislature and the federal government.

"I can't think of a better place [for the veterans cemetery] than Jay Cooke Park," commented DNR Commissioner Mark Holsten. "This is our way of saying thank you to the veterans of that area for all they've done for us."

Related Topics: CARLTON
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