Park benches and picnic tables purchased through the city in memory of loved ones may soon be given expiry dates.
That’s because the Legacy Landmarks program, established in 2001, has become so popular that the city says it is running out of space to put the memorials.
The city will maintain the landmarks for 25 years, and then make the space available to another leasee if the current owner chooses to give up the memorial.
Trina Soltys, with the city’s parks department, said that the city was able to get in touch with 144 of the 180 donors who currently have memorial items.
A total of 43 agreed to the changes while 75 had no response.
Only one respondent did not agree while 18 letters were returned as address unknown and seven people checked off the option marked as ‘other’ on the city’s questionnaire.
Soltys said the city sent a mailout outlining the proposed changes to the donors.
“In the letter, it was acknowledged that existing furniture items would stay in place until no longer in serviceable condition,” Soltys wrote in a report to city council.
“An average life span for a bench/table has been estimated at 25 years.”
If council approves the changes to the program, when a donor purchases a memorial item it will be good for 15 years; the city will replace the bench or table if it sustains damage beyond repair before those 15 years have passed.
At the end of the 15-year term, the donor has the option to renew for an additional 10 years for a maintenance fee of $500.
After the 25 years is up, the bench or table space will be made available for renewal for the cost of a new donation, with the first right of refusal given to the original donor.
Since the program began 13 years ago, not only is space becoming an issue, but also the cost to the city to put up the memorials.
“The cost of purchase, delivery and installation of park benches and picnic tables has increased,” Soltys said. “While it is important to recognize that these items benefit the entire community, staff is recommending that rates are increased to better reflect current costs and reduce taxpayer investment in the program.”
Staff is proposing to up the cost of a park bench from $1,800 to $2,500, with the city subsidizing $769 of the cost. Staff is also recommending upping the price of a picnic table, from $2,000 to $3,000, with a city subsidy of $1,373.
Although the donor is paying to purchase the item, Soltys said that once the bench or table is purchased it becomes a donation to the community to use and enjoy.
“Once donated, the furniture item belongs to the city and (does) not have the same permanence as a grave marker,” Soltys said.
Over the past couple of years, city council and community members have suggested the city look into creating a memorial tree program.
Soltys, though, said after some research into the program, city staff have come to the conclusion that the program may be more trouble than it’s worth.
“Many communities have had programs such as this and are choosing to discontinue them due to the challenges related to implementation such as vandalism, limited locations with required irrigation, problems with pests and disease, and lack of financial and human resources to care for the trees,” Soltys said.