A host of city and state officials joined representatives from VFW Post 10818 New Richmond / St. Croix County, members of the Army's 652nd Engineer Company and a handful of community members for a groundbreaking ceremony, Saturday, July 13, at Freedom Park.

New Richmond Mayor Fred Horne told the audience, if not for the tenacity and fund raising of council member Jim Zajkowski, the vision of community members Jim Remingotn, Jim Heebink, Irv Sather and Wally Headhager and the collaboration of VFW Post 10818, the story of Freedom Park may not have been written at all.

Horne attributed the purchase of the land for the park in the early 2000s, in large part, to the perseverance of Alderman Zajkowski. He added that Zajkowski's fundraising skills have propelled much of the parks development.

"This park gets developed at the speed of cash. So if you ask, 'When is this park going to get done?' When Jim is done raising money," Horne said.

The mayor relayed that even before the land had been purchased, Remington, Heebink, Sather and Headhager had imagined how a trail might fit the land, so they rented a sickle mower and developed the very first trail around what would become Freedom Park.

"It takes a lot of money to build these parks, to do any project. We can make those tax dollars stretch if we have assistance if we have working relationships with other groups, if we have collaboration. It's the VFW who has kind of taken over that charge to work with the Guard units and other units to make some of these things happen. I want to thank the VFW and I'm going to include the American Legion. It's great to see these two organizations working together. And we have to thank the 652nd for donating their expertise," said Mayor Horne.

The U.S. Army's 652nd Engineer Company operating out of the reserve center in Hammond is set to begin work this summer on a mile-and-half northern section of the walking trail at Freedom Park.

The city estimates the value of engineering work to be donated at $20 per lineal foot or about $158,400. Added to the $5,220 donation for materials that VFW Post 10818 New Richmond / St. Croix County coordinated through Monarch Paving and Milestone Materials, the donation totals $163,620 in labor and material.