Pioneer Park chosen as site of Central Saanich’s new cenotaph

After some back and forth over the years, Central Saanich councillors chose Pioneer Park as the preferred location for a new veterans memorial cenotaph.

Between Dec. 5 2016 and May 1, 2017, a variety of options had been presented to council. First, Pioneer Park was recommended by staff, but council chose Centennial Park. This was Mayor Ryan Windsor’s preferred option when he introduced the idea four years ago to get a cenotaph built in the District. However, a later staff report indicated just one positive attribute to the Centennial Park location: ample parking for a Remembrance Day ceremony. There were several negatives included poor drainage, small size to accommodate people for the ceremony (many would have to watch from Wallace Drive), high levels of traffic noise and stray balls that would inhibit “quiet contemplation.” Staff estimated the Centennial Park location would cost twice as much compared to the Pioneer Park site ($300,000 vs. $150,000).

In light of these negatives, staff asked council to reconsider, and they did. According to the staff report, Pioneer Park is far from Central Saanich Municipal Hall, but the site is level and accessible, with good drainage and nearby washroom and parking facilities (among other positives).

“Council was faced with [cost and engineering challenges], and we said, ‘We’d love to build a project there, but a significant increase in cost to address subsoil drainage issues are probably more than we can bear when there are other sites in the district that could properly accomodate and give respect to the memorial and the monument.’”

The council table then considered Saanichton Green or Pioneer Park, and the mayor said council did not strongly prefer one over the other (the price would have been about the same), but in the end, Pioneer Park was chosen.

The proposed design is described as a “simple trapezoid cenotaph,” (imagine a short Washington Monument that reaches the shoulder of the average adult), made from polished granite or concrete. Each of the cenotaph’s four faces will display a different message. A Coast Salish motif “acknowledges the pre-contact history of the First Nations and their struggles for survival.” A Canadian maple leaf “embraces all Canadians who have served their country and communities.” The Dove of Peace “offers hope that, in the future, peace will prevail.” Finally, the epitaph “Be at Peace” “can be read as a message to the fallen and a message to offer solace to their families.”

During a council meeting on Feb. 19, Coun. Bob Thompson was concerned about interrupting existing events like Music in the Park. A stage is being built by the Brentwood Bay Community Association at Pioneer Park, and he wondered if musical events in the summer would be interrupted by construction of the cenotaph. Staff replied that the precise location within Pioneer Park had not been chosen yet and the District would ask user groups for their opinions before selecting a precise site.

The motion passed with Coun. Niall Paltiel in opposition.

During the meeting, Paltiel said regardless of location, “it’s going to be a great addition to the community and a great place to build community, gather and remember.”

A public consultation on the final location and design of the monument will take place in March.

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