The little park on Mill Street near the entrance to the Plug Pond Recreation Area is buzzing with construction activities.
As part of a new Vietnam Memorial under construction in Mill Brook Park, workers are installing handicap-accessible paths that will soon be paved in brick. Workers are also setting concrete footings for monuments that will arrive this summer.
"We will finish this year, on time and under budget," said Ralph Basiliere, chairman of the city's Vietnam Memorial Commission. "Our tentative date for completion is sometime in August, with a possible ribbon cutting in October."
Basiliere was appointed chairman of the commission by Mayor James Fiorentini and was tasked with developing the new memorial.
"The mayor charged me from the beginning with ensuring that our Vietnam veterans came first," Basiliere said.
A disabled Marine Corps veteran who served in 33 countries and five deployments from 1984 to 1988, Ralph Basiliere is the nephew of Ralph Basiliere, the first Haverhill resident killed in Vietnam and the person for whom the Basiliere Bridge is named.
Basiliere recently toured the memorial site to gauge progress being made and pointed out some of the features being installed.
Basiliere noted that a circular concrete ring at the northern end of the walkway will contain a new "13 memorial" honoring the 13 Haverhill men who were killed in the war. Their names appeared on a monument that was originally placed near the foot of the Basiliere Bridge and was moved in 2018 to the park.
"We decommissioned it and buried it on site," Basilere said of the original memorial that had been vandalized.
All of the new monuments will bear the spelling "Viet Nam," as it was noted on that original monument.
The new memorial will include four granite markers with brass plaques displaying information about topics such as Agent Orange, a defoliant used by the United States during the Vietnam War which resulted in many health problems for veterans. Benches and shade trees are part of the project.
City Councilor Melinda Barrett, a member of the commission directing work at the memorial, said she hopes that future generations of people will learn about the war and Haverhill's losses through these educational markers and through an app that will be created.
A 7-ton, 13-foot-tall granite obelisk will honor everyone from Haverhill who served in the war.
"All of the granite monuments are being cut from the same Barre, Vermont, granite quarry the original monument came from," Basiliere said, "and they are being installed by the same company, Atwood Memorial, which installed the original memorial noting Haverhill's 13 dead."
The roughly $175,000 project is being funded through a mix of state grants, private donations, and in-kind donations and services including from the city's Department of Public Works, which provided trees and granite curbing.
Design and construction services were donated by Davco Excavating, Ram Engineering, Cutting Edge Lawn Service, Zodiac Environmental, architect Fred Clark and Allied Paving. The Haverhill Exchange Club and Linwood Cemetery donated the memorial's flag pole.