- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28—NEDERLAND — City officials and volunteers joined forces with architect Don LaBiche Monday morning, ceremoniously manning a row of shovels and making the first dirt fly at the future site of Nederland Veterans Park.

Nederland Mayor Richard “Dick” Nugent joked the morning was so hot he nearly forgot to actually “break ground” during the groundbreaking ceremony, but he and the city leaders who joined him were nothing but serious when it came to what a veterans’ park would mean for the city.

“Two years ago, we went to a dedication for Veterans Day and realized this little bitty plaque we have (in Tex Ritter Park) is not cutting it for our veterans. It’s embarrassing to thank them with something (so small),” Nugent said. “At the time, we knew we would have this new City Hall with this land right here that we could use to make something more appropriate.

“This park is something that’s going to start large and grow even larger. LaBiche Architectural Group has come up with an outstanding design for this memorial park. We’ll have a gazebo in back with sidewalks and gardens wrapping around benches for visitors to sit and enjoy the park. When we get done with this, it’s going to be more of a meditation type (space).”

Nugent said the LaBiche Architectural Group could not have designed such a serene and fitting space without the aid of the Nederland Veterans Park Advisory Committee — made up of five “long-term veterans,” including Nederland City Councilman for Ward I Talmadge “T.C.” Austin.

“This is a big day for the city of Nederland,” Austin, the elected chairman of the Nederland Veterans Park Advisory Committee, said. “Myself and my committee have met six or eight times over the course of a year to put ideas together — with the hope to build a park that’s for anybody in Nederland, Jefferson County and beyond with a Nederland resident who served in the military.”

Austin, a U.S. Navy veteran, said he believes Nederland Veterans Park will be a “solemn” place — a place to reflect on the Nederland residents and natives, past and present, who have served their country and what that kind of sacrifice means.

“We’ll have an MIA and POW monument in the middle, and our library director will eventually have an electronic kiosk out here to search for your relatives and community members right here at the park,” Austin said. “It’s going to be a really good deal and it will celebrate all of our veterans, past and present. Everybody — these days, especially — should walk up to a veteran, shake their hand and thank them for serving this country. It takes a lot of dedication to sign up, enlist and serve your country.”

Nugent said L&L; General Contractors will finish the park within the next 75 days — allowing the city to host a grand opening and dedication ceremony on Veterans Day, Nov. 11. Nederland Veterans Park will be located next to City Hall at 207 North 12th St.

Twitter: @crhenderson90

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