GRASS VALLEY (CBS13) – Veterans in Grass Valley are concerned that a WWI memorial is in jeopardy at Memorial Park, and they say the city is out of line.
“They could have called us into their meetings and explained to us what they want to do here,” said Pete Vasilakos, a U.S. Army Veteran.
But the city says it has to make room for new pickleball courts at the park, a project several years in the making.
“It means a lot to me, said Frank Stanovich, a Marine Corps Veteran. “I served my country, and they’re trying to desecrate this park!”
Tucked away in a quiet Grass Valley neighborhood, Memorial Park is a gathering place to honor those who have served. From WWI to Vietnam, there are 1,439 names displayed on different monuments.
“This tree planted in honor of Anthony J. Bevilacque,” Vasilakos said, reading the plaque at the base of a tree. “He is a WWI vet; he passed away. He was born and raised here!”
Earlier this month, the city council approved construction of four new pickleball courts at the park. Pickleball is a racquet sport that resembles badminton and tennis.
Vasilakos says he just learned last week, the city plans to remove this tree to make room for the courts.
“Our lovely city planners want to cut it down,” he told CBS13. “This is sacred ground!”
“They’ve done this without a lot of input from the veterans or any input from the veterans,” said Gary Miller, a Marine Corps veteran.
CBS13 talked to Grass Valley City Manager Tim Kiser, and he said an arborist visited the park on Monday and took a look at the tree. While the official report isn’t complete yet, the arborist said the tree is dying and needs to be removed.
But if the tree goes, Kiser said they’ll have to move the plaque. And Vasilakos is worried that once it’s gone, the others will go too!
“I feel very bad about that. That’s like digging up a grave of a veteran and moving his grave from one place to another,” Vasilakos said. “This belongs to memorial veterans. Not pickleball stuff!”
But if it does happen, the Grass Valley Pickleball Club has offered to pay for a new tree.
“That would be a great gesture on their part to pay for another tree to be planted and have the plaque put in from of it,” Miller said. “I don’t know how it’s going to go over with the veterans.”
And as far as the timeline, the project is open for bids. But, at this point, there are no signed contracts, no preconstruction meeting and no start date set for removing the tree.
Grass Valley Mayor Howard Levine says the city has had several public meetings on the issue. Still, city leaders will meet with veterans to hear their concerns on Thursday morning.