CARY — A towering monument to the nation’s military veterans is nearly ready to break ground off of North Harrison Avenue.
The 13-acre Veterans Freedom Park currently is home to a small memorial, but it soon will host a 90-foot spire under a plan approved by the Cary Town Council on Thursday.
The project is a personal endeavor of Jim and Ann Goodnight, who have partnered with the National Veterans Freedom Park Foundation and SAS Institute to create the 20-ton monument of Vermont granite.
SAS provided the land for the park, and the Goodnight-led software company is bankrolling the creation and placement of the tower at the northwest corner of North Harrison Avenue and Cary Parkway.
“I think all of us on the board are thrilled,” said Phyllis Eller-Moffett, president of the National Veterans Freedom Park Foundation. “It has been a long, long, long time coming.”
Early planning for the project began more than a decade ago.
Over its iterations the plan grew to include not just the spire but an education center and a chapel; elements of that $20 million vision could be installed later. At one point the spire was slated to stand 120 feet tall.
Project plans have been scaled back over the years, and the memorial is now expected to cost about $1.9 million.
Upon completion, the National Veterans Freedom Park Foundation will transfer the park to the town of Cary, which will pay an estimated $15,000 to $20,000 per year to maintain the site.
Currently, the site is home to a collection of military flags and a small bronze statue, standing just across from Cary Academy. It already draws a steady stream of veterans and military families. One veteran of the Vietnam War has requested that his family scatter his ashes on the site, Eller-Moffett said.
“We are thrilled to be this close to have a worthy monument for the veterans who have suffered and sometimes given their all, and their families who have also,” the organizer said. “They certainly need to be honored and remembered.”
Roger Ehrlich, a resident of Cary, asked at the public hearing whether the design and construction of the park by a private entity didn’t turn the park’s design into a “closed process.”
While expressing gratitude for the project overall, he said that the use of the word “freedom” in the name gave preference to the American Legion ideology and shut out the viewpoints of groups such as Veterans for Peace.
“It ought to be an open space for reflection,” he said.
Town staff pointed out that SAS held neighborhood meetings and submitted the plans for multiple reviews by town boards and staff.
Elected officials said they liked the name, which Councilman Don Frantz said shouldn’t be a problem to “any reasonable, red-blooded, patriotic American.”
The memorial is scheduled for dedication as early as Memorial Day in May.
Kenney: 919-460-2608; Twitter: @KenneyOnCary