Letter to the Editor: Big Island veterans lose dock access

Thirty-six veterans who went on the tour were from the Disabled American Veterans, Military Order of the Purple Heart, Minnesota Veterans 4 Veterans and veteran residents from the Augustana Care facility in Burnsville. They got to visit the site of the former Big Island Amusement Park and Veterans Camp. (Sun Sailor photo by Paige Kieffer)
Thirty-six veterans who went on the tour were from the Disabled American Veterans, Military Order of the Purple Heart, Minnesota Veterans 4 Veterans and veteran residents from the Augustana Care facility in Burnsville. They got to visit the site of the former Big Island Amusement Park and Veterans Camp. (Sun Sailor photo by Paige Kieffer)

To the Editor:

As a member of the Big Island Veterans Rest Camp Board of Directors, I was a leading veteran involved in the sale of the Big Island property back in 2005.

After many offers from potential buyers were reviewed and many options considered, the Big Island Veterans Camp Board zeroed in on the offer from the City of Orono because of the partnership of City of Orono.

The Minnehaha Creek Watershed District and the Minnesota Legislature all agreeing that the island would be kept in its natural state and of a commitment was made that Minnesota veterans would continue to be welcomed to visit the island and easy access would be made possible.

In addition, Gabriel Jabbour was named to be the liaison between the city and the V4V Board (MN Veterans 4 Veterans Trust Fund ..the nonprofit veterans organization formed as dictated by state statute to oversee the funds received from the sale … and grant money to veterans support projects) to plan how that access would be assured, safe and ensure the commitment and understanding met our expectations.

After the sale, the V4V Trust and the city, dialogue continued and thanks to the city along with some generous donors some beautiful docks were installed. The V4V Board, the governor, and officials of the Department of Veterans Affairs actually visited the island several times via the Minnehaha to see the results of the commitment.

Over the years since, groups of veterans and their families and veterans organizations have visited the island and the docks provided outstanding access to the park.

My main reason for this letter is that the sale of Big Island was made with the assurances by the City of Orono, the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District and legislators involved that easy and safe access to the island for veterans, including disabled veterans would be provided.

The removal of the docks on Big Island is a breach to the commitment made. I ask that you continue to honor that commitment to our veterans.

Dean Ascheman,
Ascheman is chairman MN Veterans 4 Veterans Trust Fund
and former member of the Veterans Camp Board.

(Note: For more information on the dock access, click here. For more information on veteran activities on Big Island, click here. For the history of the Big Island Veterans Camp, click here)