PLATTSBURGH — The Town of Plattsburgh is going after grant money for a public recreation area and war memorial in Cliff Haven.
Town Supervisor Michael Cashman announced the effort to acquire the $24,500 grant from the American Battlefield Protection Program on Wednesday at Clinton Community College during a joint press conference with the Clinton County American Legion.
The legion signed an agreement with the town Oct. 24 to act as stewards for the new Battlefield Commemorative Gateway, which is planned for construction this spring on Route 9, near the former Plattsburgh Air Force Base fueling jetties on the shore of Lake Champlain.
The site, which was first conceived as part of the town’s 2016 Local Waterfront Revitalization plan, will be developed in multiple phases.
The first phase would create the Naval Battle Field Waterfront Memorial.
The site would provide marine access to the historic Crab Island, where 50 American soldiers who fought in the War of 1812 are buried, as well as Valcour Island, where a major Revolutionary War battle was fought.
The second phase would develop a Vietnam Memorial.
“This project is about putting focus on the triangle of history that runs deep through that area,” Cashman said. “We’re hoping to establish a prominent community gateway that brings the story of the people, the region and the nation to life.”
American Legion Post 1619 has been working for more than 16 years to recognize and develop the potential of the Crab Island site, serving as volunteer stewards of the Island memorial.
John Rock has been involved with that effort the whole time.
He helped restore the memorial flagpole on the island and takes part in a wreath-laying ceremony every year to honor the soldiers.
“You can feel their presence once you’re out there,” Rock said of the soldiers. “Their spirit is telling us ‘don’t quit.’”
He spoke at the press conference clad in the outfit of Commodore Thomas Macdonough.
“There are 15-, 16- and 17-year-old boys who volunteered for the war and are now laid to rest there,” Rock said. “They died in the prime of their lives, and no one really knows about it.
“This is one of the most undocumented, untold events in the birth of the country. Now the story will finally get told.”
The American Legion is expected to raise additional funds for the memorial site, and State Assemblyman Billy Jones (D-Chateaugay) has been been fighting for the project in Albany, Cashman said.
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