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Officials celebrate completion of first phase of a veterans memorial project

Michael Cashman (left) and John Rock unveil the obelisk marking the start of the Purple Heart Trail at the Battlefield Memorial Gateway Park
Pat Bradley
Michael Cashman (left) and John Rock unveil the obelisk marking the start of the Purple Heart Trail at the Battlefield Memorial Gateway Park

Officials in Plattsburgh are celebrating the completion and opening of phase one of the Battlefield Memorial Gateway project.

The project, being built in three phases, will create trails and an interpretive center to honor veterans.

Phase one is now complete and includes a Purple Heart Trail.

Democratic Town Supervisor Michael Cashman says the completion of the first phase is a milestone marking a substantial move forward in a project that has been years in the making. Groundbreaking occurred last May and Cashman says since then critical baseline infrastructure, road improvements and site work has been completed.

“At the heart of phase one though lies the Purple Heart Trail assuming a poignant role in offering a tangible tribute to the brave individuals who have made sacrifices for our nation," said Cashman. "Beyond its contribution to the aesthetic appeal of the Battlefield Memorial Gateway the trail pays homage to the Purple Heart recipients. Marked by a distinct trail obelisk bearing the emblem of the Purple Heart the trail draws inspiration and connection to the monument on Crab island where we have American soldiers buried.”

Cashman and veteran John Rock unveiled the Purple Heart obelisk marking the beginning of the trail.

Rock came up with the concept for the Battlefield Memorial.

“This means so much and not only to all of our veterans in the area but also to the families," Rock said. "We have a lot of families in the North Country extending way back to the Revolutionary War when the Battle of Valcour and also the War of 1812 who still live in the area today. This area for some reason or other has never gotten the proper recognition. And this park finally when it’s done it’s going to finally become an educational and a healing point for everyone all the way around.”

State Assemblyman D. Billy Jones said when he first learned about the project, he found the idea intriguing.

“And I was wondering how were we going to do this? And I looked around and I said well good luck," recalled Jones. "From where they came from then to where we are today is remarkable. This is amazing. As far as the North Country region goes anytime that you can bring the historical significance of this area along with honoring our veterans and educating future generations to come on the sacrifices that those veterans made, it’s nothing but a winning combination for this region, this town, this county and this entire area.”

Members of the American Legion, the town Board and other officials then cut a ribbon to open the trail around the Battlefield Memorial grounds.

Rock describes what the next two phases of the Battlefield Memorial Gateway project will entail.

“Our other phases are going to be putting the structures in here and our historical plaques," said Rock. "Everything is going to be low profile in here. There’s going to be no gaudy monuments. It’s going to be all low profile so we do not lose the beauty of the lake. As you look out over the lake right here people should realize when they come here this was a battlefield during the War of 1812 off the north end of Crab Island, which we can see. And we have 50 American vets buried on the island. So the historical significance of this is just unbelievable of which this is going to project and educate and help our schools.”

Completion is planned in 2026 to coincide with the 250th anniversary of the United States.