Ernie Crediford was hiking Badger Mountain on Memorial Day a few years back and noticed purple sage in bloom. The color reminded him of the Purple Heart medal given to military service members wounded in combat.
"I was thinking, how unique that on Memorial Day we have these purple flowers," he said.
It sparked an idea that recently came to fruition.
Crediford and fellow members of the Columbia Basin Chapter of the Washington Native Plant Society built a 15-by-15-foot heart-shaped plant bed with sage and rock off Columbia Park Trail near the boat launch at the west end of Wye Park.
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The city of Richland leases the property from the Army Corps of Engineers and gave Crediford the go-ahead to create the tribute.
"It looks really nice," Crediford said. "I'm really proud of the work."
The purple heart includes a trim made of a fine gold rock. The interior is a mix of crushed basalt and the purple sage, which blooms in May.
The sage likely won't bloom this year, but should around Memorial Day next year. "And it's just going to get better every year after that, as it fills in," Crediford told the Herald.
The sage plants used in the tribute were rescued from areas that were to be cleared for development. The total cost of the project was $500 to $600, Crediford said, and the local native plant group is footing the bill.
Crediford, 64, of Richland, who works for the Kiona-Benton City School District, said he hopes to install a plaque at the purple heart. A dedication ceremony might also be held.
The Richland man isn't a veteran himself, but the tribute is personal.
"I was raised during the Vietnam era. I had a lot of friends who came back and were wounded, but their wounds didn't show," he said. "In a way, this was for them."
For others, too. Crediford sees the purple heart as a way to "pay a little reverence to the people that are serving in the military."