Works starts on 2nd Minnesota veterans cemetery

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Federal officials and other dignitaries are expected Friday at a ceremony to mark the beginning of construction at a new Minnesota State Veterans Cemetery near Preston, Minn., the Associated Press reports.

The Friday morning event caps a long effort to establish a second state cemetery for veterans. The state's other veterans cemetery, roughly 100 miles northwest of the Twin Cities just north of Little Falls, is filling up, projected to accommodate another 10 years of burials.

The state is also home to Fort Snelling National Cemetery in the Twin Cities, but demographics suggest the demand for veterans burials in Minnesota will grow.

So state officials were pleased to accept a donation of 169 acres off Highway 52 from Fillmore and Preston counties in southeast Minnesota, for the establishment of a second state veterans cemetery.

But developing the site overlooking the Root River was not going to be cheap. The land has steep slopes and ravines that need grading and tree removal, as well as roads.

To that end, the U.S. Veterans Administration awarded the project $10 million in September.

Chuck Amunrud, a Fillmore County commissioner who lives in Spring Valley, Minn., told MPR News last month that he was grateful to know that he'd have a burial place close to home.

The first phase of the project involves developing a main entrance, assembly area, administration building, maintenance facility, roads, shelter, pre-placed crypts, cremation burial areas, landscaping and a memorial walk, the Associated Press says. The cemetery is slated to open in 2015.

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