City Council gives go-ahead for Veterans' Memorial at Pioneer Cemetery

Seven flags, granite base will mark memorial on cemetery hilltop

A Pleasanton City Council that just a few years ago was reluctant to spend $1 to acquire the historic but rundown cemetery on Sunol Boulevard voted unanimously Tuesday night to spend up to $28,000 for the design of a Veterans' Memorial to be located at the cemetery.

The memorial is part of an estimated $4.5 million upgrade planned for Pioneer Cemetery in the coming years. That master plan, approved last year, includes a vision statement for the cemetery, along with recommendations for developing and expanding both cremation and burial activities.

Additionally, there are other improvements to accommodate an anticipated increase in traffic, as well as new walking paths, gathering areas and now this Veterans' Memorial.

The memorial is a project initiated by local veterans, who filled much of the City Council chamber Tuesday night, cheering and applauding as the council voted to move forward with their plan.

For their part, the local posts of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion have agreed to hold fundraisers to pay the cost of the memorial. Taxpayers will pay for the design and architectural construction plans through an appropriation to come from the city's 2015-16 capital improvement program (CIP).

The memorial is designed to recognize the sacrifices of Pleasanton veterans who served and to pay homage to those buried at Pioneer for their service.

The proposed design for the memorial was reviewed and approved by the city's Public Art Selection Subcommittee, the Civic Arts Commission and the Parks and Recreation Commission.

Some of the final design elements include seven monoliths and seven flag poles, each representing an arm of the military branches, including the Merchant Marines, and taller poles for the American and POW/MIA flags. A large granite platform, a bronze sculpture of a kneeling soldier, sitting benches and a granite star will be installed at the base of the flag poles.

Revenues generated from the sale of new burial plots are expected to cover the costs of the rest of the cemetery upgrades, which could mean the cemetery will have no financial impact on the city's General Fund budget and could even produce additional revenue from the sale of new gravesites.

Although those upgrades are planned over a multi-year period, supporters of the Veterans' Memorial have pushed for faster action on their project.

Pioneer Cemetery was first established in 1850 as a non-endowment cemetery and for most of those years was called Pleasanton Gardens. The Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF) purchased it in 1882. Many of Pleasanton's founding pioneers are buried there, including the Kottinger and Neal families, as well as 500 military veterans.

Part of the recommended improvements to the cemetery, when the city acquired it, included a Veterans' Memorial structure, an information kiosk, and a computer terminal that can provide visitors with information about the cemetery and about those who have been laid to rest there.

Gary and Nancy Harrington, who have donated public art to Pleasanton, have pledged $40,000 in matching funds toward the construction of the Veterans' Memorial.

With Tuesday's approval, and at Mayor Jerry Thorne's urging, the design work will move forward quickly to develop a final plan that will allow local veterans organizations and the Harringtons to proceed with fundraising efforts to build the memorial and related projects.

"This is going to be a great and beautiful project," Thorne said in recommending that the council approve the plan.

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