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Port Coquitlam to spend $1.3M to upgrade major downtown landmark

Council approves Veterans Park upgrade as part of a $10-million package of investments in the city's downtown, but one councillor questions whether funds should be spent instead on climate change and supporting vulnerable people.
PortCoquitlamCenotaph
The Port Coquitlam Legion hosted a private Remembrance Day ceremony at the Veterans Park cenotaph on Nov. 11, 2021.

Some big changes are coming to a major landmark in downtown Port Coquitlam.

On Tuesday (March 1), council approved a $1.3-million project to renovate Veterans Park in front of city hall that will include moving the cenotaph to the middle of the square, putting it on a plinth, seating, new pavers and lighting.

Current fencing and several trees will have to be removed, but the city plans to plant several trees to replace them.

According to the city, Royal Canadian Legion Branch 133 has been consulted and is looking forward to the changes that will provide a grander setting to honour local vets on Remembrance Day ceremonies on Nov. 11.

In a news release, 133 president Drew Lydiard said the legion is looking forward to seeing the cenotaph in its new home.

"We are pleased with the efforts being made to bring more prominence to this important tribute to veterans, in a centralized location in the park, the new plaza that can accommodate more people on Remembrance Day, and consideration of additional height and lighting," Lydiard said.

"We look forward to joining the community in the new space on Nov. 11 this year."

Council's approval followed clarification of some issues, such as the location of the cenotaph, as some councillors thought a different location would provide more benefits.

$10 MILLION FOR DOWNTOWN PROJECTS

The central spot for the cenotaph won final approval.

Still, one councillor suggested that the overall costs of renovating the downtown precinct was high.

Coun. Laura Dupont voted against the upgrade and hasn't been supportive of ongoing downtown renovations, including upgrading McAllister Avenue, which just opened to traffic, with wider sidewalks and enhanced lighting, and Leigh Square, which is still in the design phase.

She told the Tri-City News her opposition was due to the $10 million total costs of all of the projects ($5.9 million and $4.5 million according to the finance department) — money that she says could go to other issues such as climate change, food security and helping vulnerable people.

However, Port Coquitlam Mayor Brad West, a champion of the project, told council that the Veterans Park upgrade was key to downtown revitalization that is long overdue.

"I think it's worth noting how all of these projects tie in together and that includes obviously, McAllister, which just opened up to vehicle traffic yesterday, and there's still some work to come to add some finishing touches there," the mayor said at Tuesday's council-in-committee meeting.

"But, you know, really, it's not about these things in isolation, as council knows it's about them all together and what it's going to create," West said.

WORK TO START IN THE COMING WEEKS

According to the city, work on the rest of the Civic Centre is also set to begin this year, after the Veterans Park construction begins. The design for the spaces is posted at portcoquitlam.ca/downtown.

Some site preparation at Veterans Park and Leigh Square will begin in the coming weeks, with tree removal that must take place in March to avoid nesting season and minimize the impact on birds.

While tree removal has been minimized as much as possible, 21 trees must be removed and will be replaced with 45 new trees on the site, in keeping with the city’s Tree Bylaw.

The trees are not viable for replanting due to health or size, according to the city, and staff are investigating ways to reuse the wood.

In its press release, the city explained that funding for the project will come from the the city’s 2022 capital plan and follows public consultation and is informed by "best practices" in public space design and a variety of city planning exercises over the years. 

This is not the first time the cenotaph honouring WWI and WWII soldiers has been moved.

The 98-year-old public landmark was formerly located at McMitchell Park on Flint Street, a prominent spot at the time because it was near what was then city hall.