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Members of the Mount Soledad Memorial Association, the group that built and maintains a veterans memorial atop Mount Soledad, met with Navy officials yesterday to discuss ground rules for the group’s continued operation of the site.

In August, President Bush signed legislation transferring ownership of the memorial and the 29-foot Latin cross at its center from the city to the Defense Department via eminent domain. The presence of the religious symbol on government property is at the center of a 17-year legal battle that continues today.

Bill Kellogg, president of the memorial association, had previously expressed concern that once the memorial was transferred, his group would have to navigate the federal bureaucracy and be prevented from installing new plaques on the memorial’s wall or holding special events.

Yesterday’s meeting between the memorial association and Navy, tasked with overseeing the memorial by the Defense Department, is the first discussion since the property was taken by the federal government.

“After today’s meeting I’m feeling better about things,” Kellogg said. “I can’t say that it’s definitively fixed but we are moving in the right direction. … They seem very interested in allowing us to continue to honor veterans at the site.”

Kellogg said he expects that the Navy will issue a short-term license to his group before the end of the year, officially allowing them maintain the memorial. He said a more formal agreement will likely be formalized sometime next year.

In the meantime, Kellogg said his group continues to operate the site as it has in the past.

DANIEL STRUMPF

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