Seaside City Council Pushes Vet Cemetery Forward
September 11, 2012
At a special meeting Monday night, the Seaside City Council unanimously agreed to ask the Fort Ord Reuse Authority to put a proposed veterans cemetery in its Base Reuse Plan. The current FORA maps don't have the cemetery marked.
The cemetery itself isn't particularly controversial. But the politics come in with an "endowment parcel" the city plans to sell to fund it. Under an agreement with the county and FORA, Seaside plans to sell a 30-acre chunk of the 178-acre cemetery parcel to Brian Boudreau, the developer of the controversial Monterey Downs project.
The reported sale price: $1.5 million, the amount needed to move the vet cemetery forward.
During public comment, local environmental attorney Alexander Henson questioned the need to clear-cut the cemetery parcel to residential standards and asked the council to clarify whether it really wanted to raze all of the trees.
Several Fort Ord conservationists encouraged the council to separate the veterans' cemetery, which most support, from the Monterey Downs project, which most don't. "If anyone deserves a part of Fort Ord, it's the veterans," said Seaside City Council candidate Jason Campbell (pictured above). "Let's not hitch the wagon to the wrong project."
But veterans and their families said they've been working toward this cemetery for 20 years, and it's time to break ground. "A tree has never paid a tax," said James Bogan of the United Veterans Council. "Veterans paid a tax with their lives."
"Designate the cemetery on your maps, which should have been done when it was given to us," said Janet Parks of the Central Coast Veterans Cemetery Foundation. "Nothing was said about trees then.…And cemeteries, especially veterans' cemeteries, are beautiful. Sad, but beautiful."
One man in the middle: Veteran and Fort Ord conservationist Gordon Smith, a leader in the new grassroots group, Veterans Wild Fort Ord.
Smith took the $1.5 million figure as a challenge, saying his group will try to raise the money and buy the endowment parcel themselves. If successful, he says, they'll turn it into a local park "so the cemetery can go forward and the remaining acreage will remain wild."
Smith later says he thinks it's a plausible goal. "And we think we can [raise the money], through land-conservation groups, environmentalists and veterans who just can’t accept the idea of cutting down that forest," he says. “If we can get Monterey Down out of there, maybe they can’t exploit the veterans anymore.”