Group asks for public hearing to protect 100-year-old trees from VA cemetery

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Some of the oldest trees in Indianapolis could be cut down if plans for a new columbarium-only national cemetery move forward.

Crown Hill Cemetery sold some of the land on the north side of their property to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for the project.

A columbarium is an above-ground structure in which cremated remains are inurned.

According to documents from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the plan is to build columbarium walls, a main entrance gate, parking area, service shelter building, a memorial wall and more.

Jeff Stant with the Indiana Forest Alliance says the location in which they want to build these structures is currently home to numerous trees older than 100 years.

Stant says he thinks the project is a great way to honor veterans, but he thinks this is the wrong location.

“Tearing down one of the last virgin forests in the Midwest — and the only one in the inner city of Indianapolis — isn’t honoring them; it’s desecrating the service that they gave,” Stant said.

One woman who lives in the area says she moved to the neighborhood about 10 years ago after plans to build condominiums on this land were shot down a decade ago. After that she says she didn’t think she’d have to worry about the land being developed in the future.

“It’s a precious forest right in the middle of the city, so the idea that they were going to put his cemetery here just blew me away,” Lori Adelson said.

Now, the Indiana Forest Alliance is hoping the public will have a chance to share their thoughts on the project before it moves forward.

“Respect our veterans, respect the people of Indianapolis, respect our last virgin forest; let’s have a public hearing on this and a genuine public comment period allowed,” Stant added.

24-Hour News 8 reached out to the Crown Hill Cemetery director. We did not hear back.

A representative for the VA declined to comment.