Mike Ashby's dream for creating an official Veterans' Memorial Park in Bonners Ferry has come full circle.
If all the pieces fall into place - especially funding for a nearly one ton granite monument commemorating the park next to the Boundary County Library - the dream Ashby envisions as a community centerpiece could be unveiled by spring.
For those who served their country - including Boundary County veterans who lost their lives in battle - the park Ashby wants dedicated to servicemen and women is something he feels is the most fitting tribute a community can give.
"This park will be the centerpiece of our community," says Ashby, a Boundary County native whose family settled in Copeland in 1905. "The American flag waving over the South Hill on the 100-foot pole has been photographed hundreds of times and sent around the world. It's a reminder that we breathe free air."
Ashby - a 1964 graduate of Bonners Ferry High School who served four years in the U.S. Navy that included three trips to Viet Nam - wants the monument to be placed facing Kootenai Street, where Dr. Marty Becker is spearheading a drive to construct an archway over the street with a large water feature in the city parking lot. The 4 ½-foot high granite slab with the Veteran's Memorial Park name carved into it would be illuminated at night year-round.
"It will give the park the proper ambiance it deserves," says Ashby, who has coordinated Memorial Day parades in downtown Bonners Ferry for the last four years. "We owe our veterans a worthy tribute that cannot be measured. Sometimes it's easy to lose sight of that. It's something we should never ever forget."
After the City Council officially named the park on February 5, 2008, the Boundary County Commissioners approved budgeting up to $2,000 from the county's Veterans Memorial Fund to purchase the monument from Idaho Granite Works along with a base to mount it and lighting. The fund, which annually receives dollars levied from a portion of county property taxes, also maintains the upkeep of Memorial Hall at the Fairgrounds.
"Last summer, people stopping at the Visitor's Center were asking if the monuments and flag by the library were a special park of some kind," says Ashby. "I think it's time to finally let everyone know."
Three years ago, Ashby - along with Becker - was instrumental in helping rally the community to raise nearly $70,000 in cash and in-kind donations for the 100-foot pole, oversized American flag and two granite monuments honoring servicemen and women.
"The idea for a park that we envisioned was one that would benefit veterans," says Ashby. "One monument honors all veterans of every branch of service while the other commemorates those killed in action in World War I, World War II, the Korean War and Viet Nam. The list of those in this community who stepped up to the plate for this is endless. It was a huge community outpouring."
Ashby says when former Mayor Darrell Kerby spoke at the ceremony after the flag and monuments were initially installed, he said he hoped the spot would be known as Veteran's Memorial Park.
"I wanted it to be officially etched in stone, and my hope is that it will resonate with everyone who drives or walks by it," says Ashby. "My country means a lot to me, and it has offered me a wonderful life. What this park says to me when I see that flag waving over the South Hill is that this community is patriotic. It still sends shivers up my spine every time I see it waving in the wind."