Salt Spring’s Remembrance Day ceremony won’t be proceeding as originally planned due to construction that began taking place in Centennial Park this week.
While Royal Canadian Legion (RCL) Branch 92 representatives were surprised to see fencing erected and plaza pavers being removed in the park on Tuesday, Nov. 7, discussions between RCL members and Dan Ovington, manager of the Capital Regional District’s Parks, Arts, Recreation and Culture department, have resulted in a revised plan, they reported on Wednesday.
The ceremony will now take place on Fulford-Ganges Road in front of the park, beginning at 10:45 a.m., with a shorter parade component.
“Though the parade is smaller in size than once envisioned, it will still be brilliant to behold with the skirl of the pipes and thump of the drums leading the way,” Legion reps said in a written statement.
Ovington said the sidewalk along Fulford-Ganges Road and the rest of the park, including the cenotaph, washroom and playground remain open.
“On Saturday, construction work will pause, the fence will be pulled back to open up a clear path and sightline from the road to the cenotaph,” he said. “In addition, arrangements have been made with the Harbour Authority to use their parking lot both for spectators and to provide wheelchair and accessible access to the cenotaph.”
In explaining why project work began this week, Ovington stated, “Similar to the construction of the Centennial playground and washroom we have a short construction window to complete as much construction as possible following the end of the Saturday Market and the start of inclement weather; this project is also supported with grant funding, creating additional time constraints. While I agree that this should have been postponed until after Nov. 11, arrangements have been made with the Legion to accommodate both the construction and this important annual event.”
Some Salt Spring residents contacted the Driftwood to express their dismay at the timing of the construction work.
“My apologies if this has been viewed as disrespectful towards our veterans in any way,” said Ovington. “I can assure you that this was never the intention. We remain committed to working with the Royal Canadian Legion, and supporting their Remembrance Day service in any way we can, including the establishment of mutually agreed upon adjustments for this year’s event.”
The park upgrade has long been in PARC’s plans, with an Oct. 20 press release stating construction would take place between the market off-season from Nov. 1, 2023 to March 31, 2024. A $561,748 grant from Pacific Economic Development Canada was received to complete the work, along with $298,000 of Community Works Funding and $100,000 from the Salt Spring Island Parks and Recreation capital reserve fund. A project update was provided in a December 2022 Driftwood story.
The Legion organizers of this year’s Remembrance Day ceremonies added that they “appreciate the recent surge of community support. There is also heavy rain expected on the day. In spite of all these challenges, we have our responsibility of remembrance to deliver. We believe our program adaptation and the ceremony will make our community proud. Try to be in place by 10:45 a.m.”