Sign marking location of Paul J. Cochran Veterans Memorial Park
A sign on the corner of North 16th and College marks the location of the future park. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

A key design feature at the new Paul J. Cochran Veterans Memorial Park appears to be headed in a little bit of a different direction, Assistant City Manager Chelsea Starner said at Thursday’s Park Advisory Board meeting.

The Philomath City Council approved of a general design concept for the memorial during its June meeting. The city received a state grant for $50,500 to build and install the memorial and flagpole area with requirements for a 40% match, which amounts to $20,000. The grant funds must be spent by May 2023.

A local artist had been consulted for the memorial’s design, a concept that featured a sculpture of an eagle in a nest with a pillar where a memorial plaque or the Armed Forces seals could be placed. After gathering input, including from the family of the soldier whose name will be on the park, the memorial’s design transitioned to a mixed concept.

“I wanted to make you aware that we’ve taken a little bit of a different direction but we’re trying to still stick to that concept that you and the council had looked at,” Starner said, who passed around design examples to the park board members.

“I think the family is really entrusted us in having something that looks like a traditional veterans memorial,” she added. “They’re fine having something artistic added to it in addition, but they really would like to see that. And I think a lot of veterans are used to seeing memorials that are a little more traditional. This route would likely cover that aspect a little bit better.”

Starner mentioned some of the issues that came up with the design that had been considered, including the sculpture’s size. 

“For where it is, it doesn’t make a lot of sense,” Starner said. “It’s just not a big enough park to have something that large — it would look out of place. … It’s very substantial and very tall and for that small of a park.”

Timing is also a major consideration with the city not wanting to risk losing the grant.

“I’m at a point where I can’t keep going back and forth trying to accommodate this,” she said. “I have to order something or we’re going to lose our grant and that would be really sad.”

The new design appears to be leaning toward the use of a smaller-scale bronze eagle with Starner seeing substantial differences in pricing for that piece of the memorial — from $12,000 to $35,000. Overall, she’ll continue to price out all of the components to figure out how to best make it work.

The veterans memorial park will be located on the corner of North 16th and College streets and will be about one-eighth of an acre in size. The property was donated to the city by Beverly Durham, who died in August 2018, with the primary condition that it would serve as a memorial for Cochran, the son that she lost in Vietnam in 1968.

The $50,500 award to the city came from the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department through the Veteran and War Memorials grant program. The money must go toward the cost of creating a memorial, which could be a statue or sculpture, and includes any ground or concrete work in that specific area of the park.

Brad Fuqua, Philomath News

Brad Fuqua has covered the Philomath area since 2014 as the editor of the now-closed Philomath Express and currently as publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He has worked as a professional journalist since 1988 at daily and weekly newspapers in Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, Arizona, Montana and Oregon.