Plans to allow for as many as five memorial plaques to be placed on each park bench were abandoned by Sooke council. Other alternatives are being explored. (Tim Collins / Sooke News Mirror)

Sooke council pans multiple memorial plaque plan

District should not sell the same bench over and over again, says councillor

Imagine that your family has bought a plot of land in the cemetery where a loved one’s ashes will be deposited for eternity.

Now consider the grisly circumstance where the family discovers the ashes of four other souls are slated to be deposited in the same spot.

That was the comparison drawn by Coun Al Beddows when Sooke council considered the district’s memorial plaque contribution policy – the rules governing the placement of memorial plaques, primarily on park benches at Whiffin Spit.

The policy allowed for a maximum of five memorial plaques to be affixed to the benches. Current and future sponsors would be informed multiple plaques might be affixed to benches.

But that bench regulation did not sit well with councillors.

“I think when people contribute $2,000 for a bench they think they are buying that bench. Now we’re going to say five plaques might be put on that bench?” Beddows said.

“It’s like we’re selling the same bench over and over again. It makes us look like we’re money grabbing when our policy is supposed to be that we’re recovering costs.”

The issue was first raised at the June 17 committee-of-the-whole meeting where council received a staff report and recommendations along with a series of heartfelt letters that decried the fact that a bench dedicated to Margaret Giks was scheduled for removal if more money was not paid to repair or replace the bench that had been damaged by winter storms.

RELATED: Memorial bench update planned back in 2018

The recommendations addressed a number of issues, but the idea of selling multiple plaques for a single bench was the part of the report that most raised the ire of councillors.

Coun. Jeff Bateman agreed with Beddows’ concern, saying the concept of multiple plaques would open the municipality to well-deserved criticism and make things difficult for municipal staff who would be charged with implementing the policy.

Both Mayor Maja Tait and Coun. Tony St. Pierre shared the concerns severing it from the remaining recommendations and not approving that portion of the policy. They did, however, discuss some alternatives for the placement of memorial plaques

St. Pierre suggested that an innovative solution might be to place plaques on the stairways within the district and Tait opened a discussion on the feasibility of using the stone wall at Ed Macgregor Park for memorial plaques.

In a final, humorous observation about the multiple plaques on one bench concept, Beddows noted another reason to abandon the concept

“I can see Uncle Bob’s name on a bench and suddenly we have some other person’s name … someone Uncle Bob hated … side by side. That just wouldn’t be a good idea.”

There are 22 benches on site at Whiffin Spit and an additional four have been temporarily removed due to impacts from winter storms.

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