FRANKFORT - Visitors to the Salato Wildlife Education Center in Frankfort can now view the bronze statue that will be at the center of a new memorial to Kentucky’s six conservation officers killed in the line of duty.
“The groundbreaking for the memorial will be June 7,” said Sgt. Scott Herndon, Spencer County conservation officer for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. “Construction will begin after July 1.”
Herndon is chairman of the memorial committee for the Kentucky Conservation Officers’ Association (KCOA). The group, founded in 1988, came up with the idea for the memorial and is financing its construction.
A bronze statue of a saluting conservation officer, created by Indiana sculptor David Kocka, will stand in the center of the keyhole-shaped memorial that honors conservation officers Elijah Roberts, James R. Claxton, John C. Martin, Denver Tabor, Robert C. Banker and Doug Bryant.
The job of a conservation officer has always been dangerous duty. Four of the officers were gunned down while investigating illegal activity. One drowned while attempting to save a boy who fell overboard. The last officer to lose his life, Doug Bryant, received fatal injuries when his patrol truck overturned during a high speed chase in 2003.
Herndon said the total cost of the memorial, which will be built on a grassy area in front of the Salato Wildlife Education Center, is $130,000. “We’re about $15,000 from that goal,” he said. “When the donations exceed the cost of the memorial, we plan to establish a scholarship fund.”
One way to contribute to the memorial’s construction fund is to purchase a paving stone for $200. The donor’s name or any appropriate quote will be engraved on the granite blocks. For more details visit the website: www.officialkcoa.com
Artist Rick Hill and the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Foundation have collaborated on another option to donate to the fund. Prints are being made from an original acrylic on canvas painting by Hill, which appeared on the cover of the Fall 2012 issue of Kentucky Afield magazine.
“It’s a scene from the late 1940s. A conservation officer driving a Willys Jeep has stopped to check the license of a small game hunter,” said Hill. “It was a painting to commemorate the 100th anniversary of fish and wildlife law enforcement in Kentucky.”
Signed and numbered prints will be available for purchase online at www.kentuckywildlife.com later this summer.
The memorial’s defining features were developed by KCOA members, including benches to represent each of Kentucky’s nine law enforcement districts and six pillars with engraved likenesses of the fallen officers.
Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Graphic Artist Obie Williams designed the memorial with the aid of a 3D digital model. “It’s circular because that’s an inclusive, inviting shape,” said Williams. “It implies the close knit group that our officers are.”
The memorial will be constructed by Searcy Monument Company of Carrollton.
“This memorial will not only honor those who paid the ultimate sacrifice but will also serve as a reminder of the dangers associated with being a Kentucky conservation officer,” said Shane Carrier, assistant director of the department’s Law Enforcement Division.