Garbage, last year’s leaves, lack of paint: the pool at the park needs work. (Lexi Bainas/Gazette)

Lake Cowichan council told that their treatment of memorial park is ‘shameful’

While co-op was paying, park was maintained, but when cash stopped so did work, accusers say

“Shameful!”

That was the epithet thrown at Lake Cowichan town councillors by members of the Cowichan Lake Community Forest Co-operative on March 26.

Lorne Scheffer and Bruce Ingram, both Co-op volunteers, raked council over the coals for what they see as a disgraceful lack of maintenance at the Forestworkers Memorial Park at Ts’uubaa-asatx Town Square in the centre of Lake Cowichan.

Mossy, moldy, forgotten, overgrown, uncared-for, even disrespectfully treated: the park is in poor shape and the two men hammered home their anger that such a situation has been allowed to occur.

Scheffer explained that the Co-op board had asked the two men to address council on the state of the park, which was constructed in 2006/07 and opened with a lot of fanfare.

The FMP was made possible by the Lake Cowichan & District Credit Union Legacy Fund and the CLCFC in 2006/07. Other contributors to this park were the Town of Lake Cowichan, IWA Local 1-80, New Landscapes, WorkSafe BC, Surespan Redimix, Island Savings Credit Union, Dwayne Nichols, Catalyst Paper, Weyerhauser, Dorman Timber, and Surespan Industries, he explained.

”I remember the day we opened the park, and I’m sure most of you remember that day. It was a beautiful morning, there was anticipation of something great. The water fountain was going to be turned on. We had dignitaries, MLAs, people from WorkSafe BC, we had union bosses from BC Ferries, BC Hydro, BC Tel, forest companies. It was a great day for Lake Cowichan.

“Every year, the Nanaimo Labour Council has a Day of Mourning at that park because it has become so important to the labour movement.

“It’s not only important to them but it’s also important to the citizens of the upper Cowichan because people are able to lay a brick for loved ones that have gone. It’s a place for memory. If you look at the bricks you’ll see quite a few green trees on them and they represent someone who passed on the job in the forest industry, whether it be by logging, transportation, or in a sawmill. That’s the truth of it.

“Over the years, that park has been a magnet for visitors and locals alike. So often, [particularly Lake Days or when there are big events at Laketown Ranch], people are all around that complex, reading the bricks, remembering loved ones,” Scheffer said.

“The park was the start of revitalization for this area of town. A new library was built there. A new totem park. I still remember that day and the excitement of our First Nations friends when they raised that pole. It’s become a town meeting area, and that’s what we all wanted to see.”

But, the Co-op board was concerned and Scheffer and Ingram were at council “to relay to you their disgust at the way the town has let this gem deteriorate. It’s very disturbing for people to see the condition of that park. I’ve had lots of people talk to me about it. Now why is it in this state? It’s a shame that we’ve let it get to that state.”

The Co-op turned the park over to the Town with an agreement that for five years they’d give the municipality $1,000 a year to look after that park specifically.

Scheffer’s voice became emotional.

“When the money ran out, the town let it go, let it slip away! It’s a disgrace. It’s not only a disgrace on us, it’s a disgrace on all the people who have loved ones’ names there. And we should be ashamed of that. We want you to clean this up!”

Carolyn Austin asked, “When you say it’s in bad shape, is it the gardens, what exactly is it?”

Scheffer replied, “Well, when you look at the vegetation, it’s overgrown, it’s not trimmed, it’s not looked after. Some of it’s dead. The base of the pool is full of leaves from the fall rotting away. The pool itself needs to be cleaned out and it needs a fresh coat of paint. The benches are in tough shape. The plaques that were put there by people are in tough shape. The sad thing is the bricks have got moss and mold on them. The three big plaques need cleaning up and working on. We used to send [carver Zak Stolk] in there to take them down and fix them all up for us and put a new coat on them. They always looked so beautiful. People loved them, because it’s the story of the forest industry in our area. So, those are the kinds of things we need to see addressed.”

Ingram said he is the finance chair of the co-op.

“When that forest memorial park came up in our meeting, I went down and looked at it. I would hope you will all go down and look at it. It is a disgrace.”

He said he was there to support not only Scheffer but the families involved, especially those that included members who had lost their lives in the forests while building the communities around the lake. “Families continue to purchase bricks and we continue to place them there for exactly that reason.”

Situations like the grass growing between the bricks, and the grass growing on the front of the stairs were concerns.

“I notice that there were new railings that went in. When you put railings in, why the heck didn’t you clean the front of the stairs? It’s disgusting. Workers’ names are enshrined on those bricks and on the benches.

“The condition of the park did not get this way from only one year of neglect,” Ingram said. “It’s apparent that the town staff have failed in their efforts to recognize and respect contributions. Loved ones are calling us to find out why their bricks and benches are beginning to be obliterated by moss and weeds growing all over them. The surrounding gardens are forgotten, and the fountain and plaques and the benches are fading,” Ingram said.

But, the CLCFC men also came with a solution.

“Mr. Mayor, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel for council. The CLCFC is proposing to form a partnership with the Town that we will make an annual donation once more and start a new legacy. We wish a service agreement with a separate line item on your parks budget so we may come and we may see where the money we’re giving you to benefit us all is being spent.

“I’m really looking forward to seeing this discussed as quickly as possible because I would hate to come to the 75th birthday party [this year] and walk up to that disgusting sight,” Ingram said.

The co-op’s proposal will go to the town’s finance and administration committee for more discussion.

Coun. Kristine Sandhu said, “On a personal note, this impacts me in a huge way. There’s no excuse or reason for how it has gone. I will go up there. I just want to say we owe more respect. After tonight, we’re going to show more respect.”

 

Peeling plaques show a disrespect to donations, the Co-op says. (Lexi Bainas/Gazette)

Moss is well established between many bricks: more than one year of neglect, say Co-op members. (Lexi Bainas/Gazette)

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