Blackfoot top pick for vets’ cemetery

State and federal officials have recommended that a proposed eastern Idaho veterans cemetery be located in Blackfoot.

For the last four years, the Idaho Division of Veterans Services and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs examined more than 30 sites in the region before settling on 38 acres adjacent to State Hospital South, according to a news release.

Blackfoot Mayor Paul Loomis, a veteran who served 26 years in the U.S. Army Airborne Rangers, was excited to hear the news.

“That’s just fabulous,” he said. “Blackfoot is a great central location for the veterans in Idaho Falls and Pocatello, as well as for veterans in rural areas to the east and west.”

Loomis said city officials, as well as officials from Bingham County, worked hard to persuade state and federal officials that Blackfoot was the best location.

A local group spent considerable effort over the past few years preparing suggested sites in Idaho Falls, Ammon and neighboring areas of Bonneville County.

“We’re a little disappointed that we couldn’t attract it to our county, but we’re really pleased it’s coming to eastern Idaho,” Bonneville County Commission Chairman Roger Christensen, one of the leaders of that effort, said. “We’ll do whatever we can to lend our support to seeing it happen for eastern Idaho.”

Idaho Falls City Councilman Ed Marohn, a Vietnam veteran who served in the 101st Airborne Division, agreed.

“I think the exciting part is that we get one in eastern Idaho,” Marohn said. “I think Blackfoot is a good location. It’s going to be in eastern Idaho and close to Idaho Falls.”

Preliminary estimates of the construction cost stand at $8.3 million, $7.5 million of which would be covered by the federal government. The Division of Veterans Services indicated in a news release it had already set aside funds to cover the remainder.

State officials indicated they hope to break ground as early as September.

The Division of Veterans Services will be accepting public comment on the chosen location through Dec. 30. Comments can be submitted in writing to Blackfoot Cemetery Comment, Idaho Division of Veterans Services, 351 Collins Road, Boise, ID 83702.

Loomis emphasized that the process still has a long way to go.

“I’m hoping that we’ll see something out there in the next couple of years, but we’ll all have to be patient while officials go through this process,” he said.