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Oak Ridge Cemetery Getting New Memorial And More

Updated: Wednesday, June 11 2014, 05:20 PM CDT

SPRINGFIELD -- Oak ridge cemetery is the second most visited cemetery in the U.S. It's also the final resting place for our 16th president, and a top tourist destination for the city of Springifeld.

Local organizers are working to ensure the war memorials on the grounds continue to attract those visitors.

It started with the idea of adding a Purple Heart memorial at Oak Ridge Cemetery, a cause that PJ Staab fully supports.

"We prepared and have since been approved by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency to erect a Purple Heart memorial at the Oak Ridge site," said Staab.

Through that process it became apparent that more could be done to make the war memorial site one cohesive destination for war memorials.

In order to give the veterans, who are running the current memorials separately, one voice, they will come together under a new not-for-profit organization called "Heart of War Plaza" with the idea that the group will play a fundemental role in shaping the future of the area.

"We would be able to have one voice, and one way to take monuments or memorials in to approve and then we would send them off to IHPA for final approval, because they would be the ultimate landlords of the property would be the state of Illinois," said Staab.

In order to make their vision a reality the city of Springfield would need to donate about an acre or acre and a half of land, but doing so could translate to more tourism dollars for the area.

Donating the land would have to be approved by the board at oak ridge cemetary and then the full city council.

"From my viewpoint I'm fully supportive of the initiative and I think it can't do anything but good for the city," said Mike Lelys, Executive Director for Oak Ridge Cemetery.

The group's new mission will be to remember, educate and heal.

They also plan to make education in the plaza more hands on and informative.

"Most everybody has a smart phone now. So as you wander around the pathways that are introduced in this concept one could then tie into the app and learn about the particular memorial that they're walking upon," said Staab.

Oak Ridge Cemetery Getting New Memorial And More

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