Veterans Unable to Visit Vietnam War Memorial, Accessibility Limited
A Facebook post is prompting the city of Charlottesville to question access to the area's Vietnam War memorial.
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - A Facebook post is prompting the city of Charlottesville to question its access to Dogwood Vietnam Memorial.
Dogwood Vietnam Memorial, or 'The Hill That Heals', is often regarded as the first Vietnam Memorial in the United States.
Veterans within the area said they are not able to pay their respects to those who served, because it is difficult to get to the location.
The Facebook post that caused the city to get involved was posted by Jim Carpenter on February 19.
"Lessons learned......A difficult journey.
Over the past several weeks I have been getting asked, “what is going on at the Dogwood Vietnam Memorial?” Well the retaining walls have been built for a pathway that will connect the new bridge near the softball fields West of the memorial. The walls will have stone to match the existing walls. All this sounds good and will look great but none of this will solve the real problem on how to get there! Happy he constant question I keep getting is, “ where do I park to get there?” May answer is, “ in front of the rescue squad!” When I reply with that answer they look me straight in the eye with a reply of, “really!”
Currently, the city has not provided any signage for parking to see Our Nations First civic memorial to the Veterans and local casualties of the Vietnam War. Having to walk from the squad parking lot to the memorial takes 12 years plus minutes and having to cross 7 lanes of traffic. Now when the new bridge is open with a parking lot it will be a third of a mile hike to get there.
The Dogwood Vietnam Memorial Foundation was been working for four years working with the city about this problem. It is in my opinion and others the Memorial does not meet the standards of the ADA. Lawyers for the city beg the differ sometimes referring to the “ pathway” as a “trail” therefore meeting the less access ability requirements to get to the memorial. For our visitors who want to come visit, for the families of the deceased, for those folks who are in wheelchairs or crutches, this is totally unacceptable!
After working with the dedicated women and men who are on Dogwood Vietnam Memorial Foundation board I have seen first hand how the city has treated us. At one time they told we could use the old golf shad for storage for our equipment but then kicked us out. At one time they even suggested we ( the foundation) buy a golf cart that would be parked near the new bridge so if someone wanted to visit the memorial, one of our board members would have to meet them to drive them over to the memorial. Totally unacceptable!
What the memorial needs is parking at the memorial site! No ifs ands or buts! This needs to be done largely for the respect for those 28 service members from Charlottesville and Albemarle County who gave their lives. Respect for the families, respect for our Vietnam Veterans, respect for those who visit.
We call it “ The Hill that Heals” and I have first handed seen what it has done for one man who fought many battles in Vietnam. It took him 25 years after the war to open up while working with one of the founders of the memorial to share his battles within. He has been back from that war now for over 50 years and through that “hill that heals” won that mental war. Now he is battling another war of his health. Agent Orange may be his battle now.
I am hoping for the City and Foundation can come up with a solution but right now I see nothing but “dragging of feet” in hopes Our problem will just go away.
Personally, I would love for this message be shared in hopes that national attention will be brought to this issue. Attention that will bridge the gap that makes this memorial accessible to all to enjoy.
Why build something that is so difficult to get to. Why is it we can not find solutions and not be the problem.
The voices of reason should be heard. Call city your city councilors, write our statesmen representing our area! Please let them know, visits to a Memorial should not be a journey in fear of the obstacles to get there (traffic) but a reminder what freedom costs."
One of the three men who founded the memorial, Jim Shisler, said he is unable to walk to the memorial since its location is a quarter of a mile from the nearest parking lot.
"The switchback which is really basically the only access to the memorial, unless you come from what would be the bridge across the railroad track from West McIntire to East McIntire Park and walk a third of a mile," said Shisler, who served in Vietnam. "Now 53, 54 years later, it’s difficult for me to be able to get here to the memorial. Kind of ironic but that’s a fact."
To get to the memorial, people are expected to park in front of the Charlottesville Rescue Squad and walk a quarter of a mile. The walk includes the switchback Shisler mentioned, as well as seven lanes of traffic.
Since Carpenter made the Facebook post on February 19, it had received 291 shares and 149 comments. Those comments prompted the city to get involved.
Charlottesville stated it intends to work on the issue with Shisler and the Dogwood Vietnam Memorial Board to make the memorial accessible for everyone.
Brian Wheeler with the city of Charlottesville, said, "I think we just need to keep the conversation going, and we need to figure out what are the opportunities what are some stopgap things we can do."
The current president of the memorial, Bruce Eades, said Charlottesville needs to make several improvements with the accessibility.
"Everyday people getting here, they see the memorial. It's a beautiful memorial and you can see it's very visible from the Parkway and the bypass but its just difficult to get here. There's no signage, the signs that we did have, have been taken down or whatever along the Parkway"
Charlottesville City Hall will prepare a plan for the short term and long term accessibility of the memorial.
If you have suggestions for the Dogwood Vietnam Memorial Foundation, you can reach them through their Facebook page.