New monument proposed for Fredonia Olympian

A second monument may soon be placed in downtown Fredonia’s Barker Common for local Olympian and gold-medalist Jenn Suhr, pending official approval.

Julie Essek, a representative of the Fredonia Olympic Celebration Committee, made the request to install the monument during the public portion of Monday’s village board meeting. A letter she sent to the trustees beforehand indicated the committee has been working on additional ways to honor Suhr’s achievements ever since she won the gold medal in pole vaulting at the 2012 Olympics in London.

“This new one is going to be upright and will be more visible, with her picture on it and the fact that she’s now a gold medalist,” Essek told the board. “We would like to pour the concrete and place that monument if it’s approved.”

Essek wrote in her letter that A.D. Titus & Co. Monuments of Fredonia has already crafted a monument larger than the one currently located in Barker Common, and a picture of Suhr has been placed on a porcelain plate affixed to the monument. This new one should get placed directly in back of the current one laying on the ground in the park, in the space that exists between the flag pole and the current monument.

Fredonia Mayor Stephen Keefe said before the village board can approve the installation, the state’s Historic Preservation Office must first decide whether an alteration can be made in the first place.

“New York state has a lot of restrictions on the use of Barker Common, so we’ll have to check with the state first to see if they will give us permission,” he said. “Those restrictions can be pretty stringent when it comes to historical properties, and it (Barker Common) is a historical site. That’ll be the big question.”

Trustee Phyllis Jones raised a concern she had about the current monument and asked Essek who was responsible for the up-keep of the immediate area around it.

“Not only are there things running up within the circle of the rings and dead flowers, but the Olympic flag is torn and tattered and the American flag is torn and tattered,” Jones remarked.

Essek replied by saying once it is on the village’s property, it should be the village’s responsibility to maintain.

“I was going to go in and clean up the (monument area),” she said. “It hasn’t been maintained, so in the near future, I’m going to buy another Olympic flag and we’re going to rip out the existing overgrown brush and put the monument up. From then forward, it’s always been assumed it would become part of the village’s property like everything else.”

Trustee Joseph Cerrie pointed out to Essek if the state does not approve the new monument, it could potentially get placed somewhere on the Fredonia Central School grounds.

The first monument was installed near the Fredonia Information Booth in Barker Common after Suhr won her silver medal in pole vaulting at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

Comments on this article may be sent to gfox@observertoday.com