OPINION: Bright lights coming to downtown park to thwart vandals

Sarnia’s century-old Cenotaph is to be rededicated this fall. Glenn Ogilvie file photo

Phil Egan

In response to the vandalizing of the Sarnia’s Cenotaph soldier a massive campaign has been announced to flood Veterans Park with protective lighting.

Sarnia Historical Society president Cory Burke said a $100,000 fundraising target has been set, along with sponsors and partners that include the Sarnia Lambton Construction and Building Trades Council (especially the labourers’ and carpenters’ unions), Bluewater Power, and Local 530 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW).

As reported here recently, the bronze statue of a First World War soldier known as “Tommy” is being sent to Georgetown, Ont. for restoration work after vandals damaged it by prying off and taking its rifle. The discovery sparked both sadness and outrage.

Trades Council president John Swart, a driving force in rallying local tradesmen and tradeswomen, said local firms ALUMA Safway and Mammoet Cranes are already contributing to that effort.

Burke said the Historical Society and local tradespeople will present the completed project as a gift to the city. The lighting project will coincide with work by the city to enhance surveillance equipment in Veterans Park.

As many as two dozen active and retired electricians could volunteer to help illuminate the space behind the downtown library, said Frank Harris, business agent for IBEW Local 530. The plan is to install floodlights as well as decorative ornamental light posts with scroll and banner arms.

Bluewater Power has already donated $7,500 toward the fundraising campaign. “(It’s) a very special project honouring our community veterans,” said company president Janice McMichael-Dennis.

Swart and Harris suggested additional funds might be available from local and provincial labour and contractor associations.

The completed project will be unveiled as part of a Cenotaph rededication ceremony planned for Sunday, Nov. 7. This year’s Remembrance Day will mark the 100th anniversary of the Sarnia Cenotaph.

The Royal Canadian Legion, Branch 62, is planning to host a military dinner following the rededication ceremony (details to follow).

Sarnia’s manager of parks and recreation said she’s “thrilled” by the Historical Society’s plans. Patti Ross has long been a vocal proponent of better lighting in the park, which in addition to the Cenotaph is home to a growing number of military artifacts.

Society president Burke said the lighting project has an historical link to the local tradespeople pitching in. One hundred years ago, before the age of jet vacations to southern climes, parks were a welcome respite for the city’s six-day-a-week workers.

Generations later, they are now helping protect of one of Sarnia’s most treasured places.

Firms or individuals wishing to contribute can contact Burke at cory@sarniahistoricalsociety.com.

Got an interesting tale? Contact columnist Phil Egan at philegan@cogeco.ca