Crown Hill Cemetery comes to agreement with VA to save centuries-old trees, build monument

Photo of the trees at Crown Hill Cemetery

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.– A battle at a north side cemetery is over.

In September 2015, the Department of Veteran Affairs purchased a 14.75-acre plot of land from the cemetery to build a monument that would hold ashes of Hoosier veterans.

The land is made up of a dense, old-growth forest with some trees that are 300-years-old, and in order for the memorial to be built, most of the trees would have been torn down.

A lawsuit was filed by the Indianapolis Forest Alliance and others in hopes to protect the centuries-old trees. Groups protested the project and argued the VA should have looked for a more suitable location.

Friday, it was announced that the two sides are pursuing a land swap. The memorial will now be built in a different part of the cemetery and the trees will remain where they are.

Crown Hill Cemetery President Keith Norwalk issued the following statement:

“Crown Hill Cemetery is proud to work with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to continue its more than 150-year tradition of honoring the sacrifice of Indiana veterans. The new location of the VA’s planned national cemetery within Crown Hill addresses recent concerns from the community while still creating a peaceful resting place and lasting memorial for Hoosier veterans and their families.”

Sen. Joe Donnelly issued this statement:

“I am pleased that the VA and Crown Hill have come to an agreement to pursue a land swap that would allow the project to move forward without impacting the forest. This project is about our veterans, who deserve access to burial sites closer to their communities and their families.

“We always achieve more when we work together, which is why I asked the VA to engage with all stakeholders to ensure this project is a win for veterans and the entire Indianapolis community. I want to thank the VA, particularly interim Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs Ron Walters, and Crown Hill Cemetery for their efforts to find a solution. ”

Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett issued the following statement:

“Today is a great day for the people of Indianapolis, whose voices have ensured that future generations can enjoy an old-growth forest which represents a unique piece of our city’s natural heritage.

I applaud the tireless advocacy of Senator Donnelly and Congressman Carson, who came together to find a long-term solution for our community, as well as the efforts of the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Crown Hill Cemetery, whose work will honor veterans and preserve the natural wonder of the Crown Hill North Woods.”

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