Taos veterans are seeking a larger footprint in their community and nonprofit organizations are lending a helping hand.
Not Forgotten Outreach Inc. is taking the lead in a coalition that plans to begin work this spring on the Taos Veterans Memorial Park.
Earlier this year, the nonprofit received a $23,000 grant from the Christopher & Dana Reeves Foundation. The grant will underwrite the construction of an ADA-accessible walking trail crossing over a spring-fed drainage waterway.
The wheelchair-friendly path will loop around the 2-acre memorial.
Located directly off the main thoroughfare (Highway 64) in Taos with 273 feet of highway frontage, the veterans park is expected to be passed by more than 14,000 vehicles a day, according to Don Peters of Not Forgotten Outreach.
Taos VFW Post 3259 will place a World War II anti-aircraft cannon in the park with help from a donation from Robert Medina & Sons Concrete and Sand Inc. The cannon is similar to those used by the New Mexico National Guard 200th Coast Artillery during World War II.
Medina served in the 200th and 515th Coast Artillery, New Mexico National Guard, and was taken prisoner along with 70,000 other American and Filipino troops when the Japanese Army occupied the island of Corregidor in the Philippines. Medina survived three years and nine months as a prisoner of war after the Bataan Death March.
There is already a Veterans Memorial on the Taos Plaza, but Not Forgotten Outreach believes there’s room for another one.
Taos County, which includes the Taos Pueblo and Picuris Pueblo, has a population of more than 3,000 veterans, Peters said in a statement.
Working in concert with Not Forgotten Outreach and VFW Post 3259 are Taos Pueblo and DAV Chapter 12.
Their project has also received $25,000 in funding through a Partners for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services (USFWS) grant. USFWS conducted a site survey and proposal for a habitat restoration plan for the new veterans park. This includes establishing a food forest, pollinator habitat and wildlife corridor, and drainage ditch restoration, among other things.
The goal is to create a diverse, self-sustainable ecosystem on the property, a Not Forgotten Outreach statement said. USFWS will provide technical and implementation assistance with help from UNM students.
These improvements represent Phase I of the new memorial. Phase II will include a commemoration to the sacrifices of Native soldiers, a burning area to retire U.S. flags and a dog tag tree sculpture. There are also plans for flagpoles to display the U.S., New Mexico and Taos Pueblo flags, as well as a POW/MIA flag.