The Department of Veterans Affairs and Crown Hill Cemetery announced an agreement that will keep the DVA’s columbarium project in the urban cemetery while saving a 500-year-old old growth forest.
A federal judge denied the Indiana Forest Alliance
’s (IFA) request to halt the Department of Veteran’s Affairs’ (VA) plan to rip out the forest and build columbaria to house the remains of 25,000 veterans.
Officials announced the plan to move the project to property adjacent to the original 14.75 acres of woods that consists of flat clear land. The agreement saves the original acreage of Crown Hill Woods from demolition, satisfying the desires of many residents, veterans and the Indiana Forest Alliance.
“Crown Hill Cemetery is proud to work with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to continue its more than 150-year tradition of honoring the sacrifice of Indiana veterans,” said Crown Hill President Keith Norwalk in a released statement. “The new location of the VA’s planned national cemetery within Crown Hill addresses recent concerns from the community while still creating a peaceful resting place and lasting memorial for Hoosier veterans and their families.”
The Indiana Forest Alliance worked with and mobilized concerned citizens, residents and veterans opposed to the plan to cut down the woods after learning about the project nearly a year after the DVA and Crown Hill officials brokered the deal. Opponents criticized officials involved in the plan for knowingly not giving proper notification to the community about the plan. A proposal to demolish the woods for commercial development nearly 10 years earlier was killed due to community outrage.
Due to the outpouring of support for saving the old-growth forest, Mayor Hogsett has asked VA for an alternative route to honor Veterans.
IFA issued the following statement in response to the welcomed news:
"The organizations and citizens who have been working to protect this amazing old growth forest are thrilled that this land swap has been made. This choice honors veterans by preserving our natural heritage. We are grateful to Secretary David Shulkin and Ronald Walters of the VA in Washington, Sen. Joe Donnelly for his leadership negotiating a solution behind the scenes, and Mayor Joe Hogsett for speaking out in favor of the value of the forest to our community.
We thank Crown Hill for their flexibility -- and we look forward to working with Crown Hill to enable this forest to be permanently preserved.
The fate of an old growth forest at Crown Hill Cemetery isn't sealed yet. The forest, set to…
This positive outcome was also made possible by the hundreds of citizens -- veterans, school kids, and many more -- who picked up the phone, marched, picketed, wrote letters, made signs, and even some who risked arrest -- to speak out for the good that forests do for our health, our air, and our quality of life.
This positive outcome is possible because of the collaboration of the organizations including Indiana Forest Alliance, Heartlands Sierra Club, Hoosier Environmental Council, the Alliance of Crown Hill Neighbors, the Crown Hill Neighborhood Association, and others."
Professional Land Steward Don Miller asks the VA to reconsider their land use.
The DVA will now work to create a new design and building plan for the project that will become home to the cremated remains of deceased veterans. A timeline for when the project will break ground has not yet been disclosed.