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State Park veterans memorial will properly honor Amherst’s bravest

Amherst Bee

January 27, 2010

by JESSICA L. FINCH Associate Editor

Pvt. Jules Nicomette of Williamsville was only 18 when he was killed in the battle of Iwo Jima in 1945.

And although 65 years have passed, his military service and life deserve to be honored by the Town of Amherst and Village of Williamsville, said David Sherman, town historian.

Reading archives from The Amherst Bee, Sherman came across Nicomette’s obituary, and something about the young man’s story stuck with him.

Nicomette was the catalyst that pushed Sherman to present the idea of creating a veterans memorial that is more appropriate and prominent than what the town currently has.

“We needed to do something more public to honor our veterans,” Sherman said. “Men and women the same age as Nicomette are still making that same sacrifice today.”

He presented his ideas to Deputy Supervisor Guy Marlette. The lack of monuments or statues at the town’s Veterans Canal Park was discussed, and soon after, a veterans memorial at Amherst State Park on Mill Street was proposed. The Amherst Town Board accepted the plan at its Dec. 7 meeting.

The new veterans memorial, scheduled for creation in spring or summer 2010, will include two stone walls, an east and west wall, a water feature, performance stage and area for seating. Landscape architect Bob Walter said the idea is to be able to hold ceremonies there on Veterans Day and Memorial Day and possibly use the space on other occasions, such as for concerts.

The east wall will feature five seals, one for each major branch of the U.S. military — Navy, Marines, Army, Air Force and Coast Guard. The current plan calls for a small water feature to flow beneath each of the seals.

The west wall would display the names of veterans who lost their lives serving the country. Walter said it was unknown at this time how many names would be listed, but it would include former Williamsville and Amherst residents.

“The veterans memorial is extremely important,” Marlette said.

The memorial is one of the upgrades planned for Amherst State Park, which will make it more user friendly in the coming year.

“The changes proposed will encourage people to use the facility and bring new life into it,” he said, adding that it is centrally located for Amherst and Williamsville.

Marlette and Walter recently discussed the plans for the 80-acre park. A 1,000-foot walkway will be installed from the entrance on Mill Street, south of the current entrance, and continue past the grotto, Mother House, and back to the gazebo, where the bridge to the meadow and orchard is located.

Currently, park users are forced to walk along the roadway or in the grass, neither of which is convenient or safe, especially for those with difficulty walking. The new 8-foot-wide pathway will be poured concrete.

The project also calls for the creation of an arboretum along the path, with major focus on the hill near the grotto. Last year, the Amherst Conservation Advisory Committee planted 1,000 daffodils as the first step to the arboretum.

The account dedicated for the State Park has $450,000, and organizers are hoping to secure a $190,000 state grant. If the state grant does not come through, the plan will be altered to include less work at this time.

The town took over ownership of the State Park in 2001, and since then there has been some criticism about how it is being maintained.

The town has future plans for the park, to eventually add more walkways and possibly connect the park with Glen Park and property on Reist Street, where the barn once stood.

Marlette said the plan meets the master plan’s recommendations that suggested Amherst State Park be more visible and increase the usability.

He anticipates that the board will vote on the final design at the Feb. 1 meeting, which will officially put the veterans memorial in the plan.

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