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Kearns 'cannon committee' plans new home for World War I-era artifacts

Published March 14, 2012 5:17 pm

Road-widening project has displaced marker for WWII base.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A once highly visible piece of Kearns history is now temporarily out of view.

The Arlo James Kearns Veterans Memorial — erected about 30 years ago on the corner of 5400 South and 4000 West, the spot known as the gateway to a former Army Air Force base — was taken down last month and put into storage to make way for a Utah Department of Transportation road-widening project.

The city might have lost its gateway marking with the removal of the Camp Kearns memorial — which included a World War I-era cannon, a flagpole from the old military base, and plaques honoring veterans — but a group of residents has been charged with making sure the artifacts return to view.

"Currently we don't know where the site will be," said David Taylor, chairman of the Kearns Community Council. "Hopefully, it will be the last time it has to be moved."

A "cannon committee" has begun talking about potential sites, memorial designs and fundraising options. Ideas for the new site include expanding the memorial to include veterans of all wars.

Salt Lake County officials have offered Kearns two locations, one on 4800 South near Oquirrh Park and another near the Utah Olympic Oval.

UDOT will allocate $20,000 toward the new site. No date has been determined for completing the new memorial.

Ideally, the new location would be just as visible as the old one, Taylor said. The decision will be made from recommendations by the committee. Until then, the items will remain in storage.

"Once we relocate, it will be a great place for people to go and memorialize those who have paid the price," Taylor said. "It will be a place for people to understand what our vets have done for us and continue to do for us."

Pam Todd, a Kearns historian and member of the cannon committee, said she is not particular about the new location as long as it is on historical property. One of the sites offered by the county was once part of the Camp Kearns firing range.

"Those of us who grew up in Kearns and knew the background of [the memorial] knew that eventually ... the stuff was going to have to be moved," said Todd, adding that people were upset to see 37 homes go for the road widening project. "It was the most watched corner in all of Kearns. We didn't watch our neighbors, we watched that cannon and flagpole."

Technically speaking, the actual gateway to Camp Kearns was about 40 to 50 yards from the corner where the memorial sat, Todd added. Camp Kearns was dedicated in the summer of 1942 and closed in November 1946.

When the base closed, items were auctioned off and sold, according to research done by Todd, who founded the Kearns Historical Society. She said what was not sold was moved elsewhere in the state. "When things got moved like that, Kearns lost its value and lost its history," Todd said. "There are pieces of Camp Kearns all over."

rorellana@sltrib.com