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New life for Richmond memorial garden project
A memorial garden could be a success in Richmond, according to city officials, who are planning to test the waters of the private sector to find an operator.
“The popularity of the city’s bench donation program as a means of memorialization is another testament to the need for a memorial garden in Richmond,” noted Jamie Esko, park planner, in a staff report presented Tuesday to a council committee.
Woodward’s Landing, a 2.5-hectare (6.25-acre) park at the south end of No. 5 Road, is the frontrunner for Richmond’s answer to a cemetery, according to a staff analysis.
But on Tuesday, civic politicians, who’ve made establishing a memorial garden a priority this term, ordered an examination of more sites beyond the 22 already considered by park planners—including properties in the Agricultural Land Reserve. Once a site is landed on, city hall would issue a call to find firms interested in building and operating the garden.
“In the history of Richmond we’ve never had a formal cemetary because of our water table,” said parks manager Mike Redpath in an interview.
A memorial garden, said Redpath, would offer the community a place for reflection, and would likely feature a columbarium—a place to store urns—scattering gardens and places for ceremony.
Numerous councils have pursued the project in the past. Redpath said the limited availaibilty of land is a challenge, noting the chosen location requires permancy by law.
Locating it at Woodward’s Landing would oust the Fraser Delta Girl Guides, which uses the park for its Learn to Camp program. But staff say the camp could be relocated to city-owned land in Terra Nova.
Aided by a telephone survey and analysis of demographics and death and burial trends, staff believe there is strong demand for a memorial garden in Richmond—a similar conclusion reached in the 2003 Memorial Park Feasibility Strategy: “The timing for a memorial garden cemetery seems ideal given the rising death rate, the growing preference for cremation, the cultural preference for cremation by most residents of Asian descent, and a growing frustration with the cost, inconvenience and loss of heritage resulting from interment outside of Richmond.”