Van Buren parks department crews have installed interpretation panels at the new Freedom Park in historic downtown.

Five interpretive panels that will explain the symbolism represented throughout the park and provide historical information about the city and its downtown were being installed in several locations.

Interpretive panels are an imaginative combination of text and visuals to tell a story about an object or place.

“All along, this project was put together to honor our veterans and to create a space to celebrate our armed forces,” said Joe Hurst, Van Buren city planner. “It is the duty of the city to explain its meaning and provide an education aspect for visitors.”

Two topics visited in the five panels include blue and gold star service flags, represented in the design of the splash pad, and the four freedoms outlined in President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s famous speech, which also are symbolically represented throughout the park.

Blue Star service flags are flown usually by a mother or parent with a child in military service, and Gold Star flags by those whose child has died in service.

In his State of the Union address on Jan. 6, 1941, Roosevelt proposed four fundamental freedoms that people “everywhere in the world” ought to enjoy: freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear.

Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms speech was the inspiration for the new Veteran’s Park, Hurst said.

Within the park, the pavilions represent the freedom from want, the stage represents the freedom of speech, the Veterans Memorial Plaza (still to be built) will represent the freedom from fear, and the church to the east represents the freedom of religion, Hurst said.

Three other panels will outline some of the history of Van Buren’s Main Street, the Frisco depot and the former Camp Jesse Turner.

“We’ve told the story of the four freedoms and the gold star,” Hurst said. “For visitors, the panels will provide them some Van Buren history and explain the symbolism in the park.”

These panels will help people understand that the park is not just a catalyst for downtown revitalization, but also will remind them that “freedom isn’t free,” Hurst said.

Van Buren Lions Club donate $5,000 to the City of Van Buren to pay for the purchase of the panels and Williams/Crawford and Associates Inc. donated its time to design and layout the panels.

Sheila Bell helped with the historical information provided on several of the panels, Hurst said.

“We have developed these projects through partnerships between the City and civic groups,” Hurst said. “This is another example of those civic groups giving back to the community.”