- Flickr/Indiana Forest Alliance
- Veterans and their families opposed to the project marched in a rally held in September.
A group of concerned citizens are taking a page out of the Standing Rock playbook. The plan involves physically preventing the destruction of Crown Hill Woods for the purpose of building columbaria for Hoosier veterans.
In a press release, the group announced they “will stay until the VA has agreed to consider an alternative site for their project or are forcibly removed.” The demonstration begins Monday, March 13 at 9 a.m.
Several concerned citizens and the Indiana Forest Alliance have been trying to stop the project that threatens to destroy 14.75 acres of old growth forest within the property of Crown Hill cemetery. The National Cemetery Administration — which is a subdivision of the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) — purchased the property from Crown Hill in 2015 in a deal that didn’t become widely known to residents for a year. The columbaria project is a part of the DVA’s Urban Initiative program, which strives to create more burial options for veterans and their families. Indianapolis is one of five major cities across the U.S. targeted for the program.
“Clearly, the VA must provide reasonable access to services for veterans and their families,” said City County Councilor Zach Adamson. “But many veterans and non-veterans in our community feel that this obligation can and should be met without eliminating the only old growth forest in inner city Indianapolis. Our action is intended to deliver the message that before any subsequent actions are taken, alternatives must be examined and considered and the public must be provided a sincere chance for input on this taxpayer-financed project.”
The group is emphasizing that while the action is meant to block access to the woods for the construction crews, the intent is not to disrespect veterans or law enforcement.
“We believe we have a moral obligation to protect this irreplaceable forest as all appropriate legislative and judicial channels have been exhausted,” says veteran Lori Perdue.
Veterans and non-veterans will participate in the demonstration.
“I am ashamed that these woods are being destroyed to honor my service,” says retired Major and Marine Corps Veteran Mary Bookwalter. “These woods predate our state’s existence and are now about to go. My first amendment rights, which I have fought hard to protect, motivate me to participate in today’s action.”