Ed Widenmaier

Weighing possibilities for new cenotaph site in Central Saanich

The cenotaph project is one of emotional value for community members and the District of Central Saanich.

In discussion for quite some time now, the cenotaph project is one of emotional value for community members and the District of Central Saanich.

The Cenotaph Committee, which has eight members, has met only a few times over the last few months, but has been hard at work making sure Central Saanich gets a proper cenotaph.

“I think it’s important to recognize that a cenotaph project, there’s a lot of emotion tied to it from members of the public, is not a work of public art or a stage or some other public benefit,” said Coun. Bob Thompson. “It should be about peace and right now it doesn’t feel very peaceful.”

So far, $16,000 has been raised towards the project, and recently an anonymous donor came forward with $85,000.

At Monday night’s council meeting, Carl Jensen, chair of the Cenotaph Committee, suggested they ask staff to score the five potential sites discussed by the committee against the criteria the committee identified.

The five potential sites are Centennial Park, Saanichton Green, Central Saanich municipal hall, the Central Saanich fire hall and Pioneer Park.

“What we were trying to do was recognize that as opposed to the Cenotaph Committee trying to identify the site, it was more so to identify what was important to us as a committee in a potential site,” said Jensen.

The District of Central Saanich will consult with staff  to weigh the five sites using the criteria expressed by the committee. Staff will then present those sites to the Cenotaph Committee in their ranking of the criteria they stated was most important.

Some of the criteria discussed by the committee were parking, visibility, accessibility, security, youth exposure, an assembly area for a parade, location conflicts and more.

With the recent $85,000 donation, some committee members were concerned that their voice would no longer be heard.

“Decisions have seemed to be made in our exclusion, so the guy with the dollar wins,” said Ed Widenmaier who is on the committee and who runs the Central Saanich Remembrance Day ceremony.

In response to concerns of the community, Jensen said Monday night’s meeting was an indication that the committee does in fact have a voice. If council wasn’t going to listen to the voices of the committee, he added, they could have gone ahead and endorsed Pioneer Park.

Location has jumped around quite a bit with the original sites including municipal hall, Saanichton Green and Pioneer Park.

In November 2015, council was keen on the cenotaph being sited in Centennial Park, and the most recent staff report advised that the anonymous donor identified his preferred location be Pioneer Park.

Committee member Norma Sealey prefers Saanichton Green and said council should think outside the box and go for her suggestion. The only concern, she added is the lack of washroom facilities on site, something she feels Saanichton Green needs as it’s a well-used park with a children’s playground.

“So that’s something that Saanichton needs anyway,” Sealey said, adding the community also needs a meeting place.

“If people in Saanichton want to meet, they either have to go out of the area or they have to go to a coffee shop, which isn’t ideal.”

With the crowd growing each year at the small cenotaph in Central Saanich, one of the big things is looking to a place they could expand.

Sealey said they talked about a large enough assembly area for a parade and an area that could be expanded to accommodate more people.

One of the issues Sealey has is the recognition of the donor’s contribution. She said she believes it to be unbefitting of a municipal cenotaph, which she said is to recognize the sacrifice of veterans.

“In my mind, that should be the responsibility of the community to provide, not for sale to the highest bidder,” Sealey said.

For Widenmaier, whose preference was to have the cenotaph in Centennial Park, he’s grateful that the donor came forward.

“It’s something that we hate to see turn political but some people have different motivations for what they want,” he said.

The Letter of Understanding also remained as is, and still includes the current terms and conditions. Those include that the cenotaph be in the form of a simple obelisk on a plinth with a small plaque acknowledging the donations and that the primary material used for construction be concrete or stone. The rest of the list can be found on the District’s website at centralsaanich.ca.

Central Saanich hopes to have a cenotaph in place for the 2017 Remembrance Day ceremony.