Lone Sailor statue debate is put on hold

and Susan Tuz

For almost two years, a retired U.S. Navy veteran has been trying to build support to erect a Lone Sailor monument on the Village Green in New Milford.

Gilbert Nelson has found some people in favor of the statue -- a replica of one in Washington, D.C. that honors sailors, Marines, the Coast Guard and Merchant Marines -- but not to be located on the Green, specifically on the southern end near the bandstand.

The town's Parks & Recreation Commission is the agency that would decide what is to be situated on town parks. The commission Tuesday tabled a scheduled discussion on the monument which had been debated at its November meeting.

The steering committee for the Lone Sailor statue was on hand Tuesday but commission Vice chairman Sue Lamb said not enough commission members were on hand to reach a decision.

Mrs. Lamb also requested a written proposal with a drawing of where the statue is proposed to sit on the Green.

The next Parks & Recreation meeting will be in January.

At the November meeting, several commission members said they thought other locations in town would be more suitable than the Green, which is the site of various events and concerts and they feel does not have room for more permanent statutes.

Eighty-year-old Mr. Nelson said the statute is just six feet tall and the green should be able to accommodate it.

Other supporters of the Lone Sailor statue suggested the commission might have a public hearing to get residents' opinions. That suggestion was reiterated Tuesday.

The town's Veterans Committee leaders said they appreciate Nelson's passion for the project but believe there are more suitable sites. If this statue were to be approved, some of them say they envision similar requests from other branches of the military.

Currently, the veterans monuments on the Green honor those who served in the various wars, rather than in a particular branch of service.

Mayor Patricia Murphy said it might actually be time for the town to consider creating a Veterans Park away from the Green as a place for ceremonial tributes and monuments. She said Center Cemetery might be a possibility.

Other sites suggested included Addis Park, the future River Walk along the Housatonic River, and Patriot's Way, where the 9/11 memorial stands.

Mr. Nelson still isn't swayed by counter-arguments. He wants the Lone Sailor where many of the veterans ceremonies take place -- on the south end of the Village Green.

Private funds must be used for the sculpture costs and they depend on location, Mr. Nelson said.

"Either I'm crazy or I have something I believe with all my heart would be wonderful for the town,'' Mr. Nelson said.