Chris Kizziar with Life Message presented plans for the Heroes Bridge Memorial Park to the Rowlett City Council at their July 20 workshop.
The park is expected to be located off Highway 66 and Scenic Drive. It will serve as a place for visitors to honor and remember friends and family who lost their lives due to the stresses both first responders and veterans face. It will also educate visitors on mental health issues veterans and first responders endure and offer resources and alternative coping mechanisms to those suffering from those issues.
“The park is intended on focusing on how heroes lived instead of how they died,” Kizziar said.
In September of 2020, Highway 66 was renamed to Heroes Memorial Bridge. The park will be an additional asset to bring further awareness to emotional and mental struggles faced by first responders and veterans.
“This initiative began in October 2018,” Kizziar said. “The Third Watch Motorcycle Club began a movement called #walkthebridge to help raise awareness and bring nationwide attention to issues associated with first responder and veteran post traumatic injuries.”
Since 2016, 996 veterans and first responders across the country have lost their battle to post traumatic injury (PTI), Kizzar said. Since the war on terror, over 30,000 active-duty personnel lost their battle with PTI.
Kizzar said civilians have fallen short of addressing emotional sacrifices of veterans and providing support. With the exception of COVID-related deaths, veterans and first responders succumb more to post-traumatic injuries than active line of duty deaths.
The park will include a welcome/information center, parking for up to 100 vehicles including RVs, buses and motorcycles, a picnic area, an education plaza, an amphitheater, 11 honor stations, a reflection point, hiking trails and a lookout point as a meeting point for groups meeting prior to walking the bridge.
“I think we have a real opportunity to program this park to be a true blessing nation wide and for our community,” Councilwoman Martha Brown said.
Construction is expected to run through April 2024. The park’s construction is projected to cost between $9.8 million and $10.2 million and will be 100% funded by the Heroes Bridge Memorial Park Foundation. The foundation expects between 250,000 and 300,000 people to attend annually.
“I think it’s a huge community asset, and it brings a lot of positive awareness to an issue that is really concerning,” City Manager Brian Funderburk said. “I think it really could be a win for all parties.”