KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Plans for a park memorializing the Kalamazoo shooting rampage were announced Monday on the one-year anniversary of the tragedy that rocked the area.
The ForeverStrong Memorial will include three outdoor sports fields, an indoor soccer field, a pond, a playground and picnic area, and a memorial walkway and pavilion.
The park will cover a large piece of property that organizers say is at least 28 acres. A location has been chosen off a major thoroughfare in Kalamazoo, but organizers are not yet saying precisely where that is.
David VanderKlok, the architect behind the memorial, said he worked with families of victims for months to design it.
“It had to be about everybody. We had to go in and make this thing bigger because we are forever strong and we want to make sure everyone is celebrated in this memorial,” he told the people gathered at a vigil marking one year since the Feb. 20, 2016 shooting rampage.
>>App users: Watch a flythrough of the proposed memorial
The walkway up to the pavilion will be reminiscent of a deconstructed barn, which family members of victims said held symbolic importance to them. Concrete panels lining the walkway will bear the names of the six people killed and two people seriously wounded in the spree.
There will be features meant to draw attention to each of the three shooting scenes and the stories of the people involved. For example, a panel with Barbara Hawthorne’s name will be pitched out into the walkway, as if standing defensively in front of the panel with Abbie Kopf‘s name. The night of the shooting, Hawthorne is said to have shielded Abbie and refused treatment until Abbie was seen to.
The walkway will lead to the “crystalline” pavilion, which will be a place to hold community events.
There will also be an area honoring the first responders who served their community on the night of the shooting spree. The outdoor fields will be large enough to host soccer tournaments. To draw a connection to Battle Creek, where several of the victims were from, another barn frame will be built there.
>>PDF: Memorial renderings
Laurie Smith, whose husband Rich and son Tyler were killed in the shooting spree, spearheaded the effort to design the memorial. She said the idea started as a small soccer center and then grew.
She said she wants the space to inspire all who visit.
“I’m excited about continuing on the legacies of my husband and son and allowing all of the other victims and survivors to do the same,” she said.
It’s not yet clear precisely how much the project will cost, but VanderKlok said it will be more than hundreds of thousands of dollars. Funds have not yet been finalized. Organizers say they just started working with a fundraising group in Grand Rapids. The process will start with a feasibility study.
An online fundraiser is expected to be a major contributor to the project. Donations may be made at the new ForeverStrong Memorial Foundation website.
VanderKlok said there are plans to eventually add a component to the park that will honor the five people killed in the Kalamazoo cycling tragedy, which happened in June 2016.
>>App users can click here to watch the entire vigil
—24 Hour News 8’s Brian Sterling contributed to this report.