Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Groundbreaking signals expanded tribute for fallen firefighters

A memorial paying tribute to fallen firefighters from 194 regional fire agencies is on its way to having greater prominence Downtown following a groundbreaking ceremony yesterday morning.

Greater Cincinnati Firefighters Memorial Park, to be located along Central Avenue between Fifth and Sixth streets, will be a 33,500-square-foot public space featuring a central garden area in the shape of a Maltese Cross, tree-lined lawn areas, and walkways made of pavers etched with the names of donors.

The existing 42-year-old statue, designed by sculptor Walter Driesbach and carved in New Hampshire by Guilians Cechinelli, will be positioned at the center of the cross.

For several months, a fundraising effort has been underway to reach the $450,000 cost of construction and maintenance. So far, $350,000 has been raised.

"It is inspiring to know that the dream of renovating and expanding our memorial is now going to become a reality," said Scott Schenkel, park president, in a media release. "The show of support from citizens and corporate donors alike confirms for me that the men and women of the fire service are appreciated for their commitment to the community and the sacrifices they make every day."

In-kind services are being provided by general contractor Turner Construction Co., construction contractor Baker Concrete Construction, and GBBN Architects. Turpin Farms will supply the sod.

The park is scheduled to be dedicated in September, in time for the Cincinnati Fire Department's annual ceremony. That ceremony takes place during National Fire Prevention Week in October.

The original firefighters memorial opened on Memorial Day, 1968 on a 20-square-foot patch of land left over from the construction of Interstate I-75.