By Kevin Werner, News Staff
They are eight-foot high illuminated glass enclaves on concrete blocks that highlight written and photo depictions of Canada’s veterans and their experiences over the years while defending the country.
But even though focus groups suggested the idea and design to commemorate Hamilton’s veterans as part of the Gore Park re-design project, some politicians were hesitant to accept it.
“Is this too modern, too over powering?” said Ancaster councillor Lloyd Ferguson. “It struck me as looking like a bus shelter. I’m getting uncomfortable.”
He recalled how the city over 20 years ago tried to remake Gore Park but had to endure a backlash from the public for the effort.
Mountain councillor Tom Jackson said he found it odd that none of the panels identifies any Hamilton veterans by name.
“I’m surprised,” he said.
The nine double-glass enclaves each carry a theme including freedom, duty, and valour that will line a walkway near the cenotaph between Hughson and John streets. The area, officially named Veterans Place at Gore Park by the Facility Naming sub-committee July 9, also includes a memorial wall that details a timeline for the peacekeeping efforts of Canadian veterans. The enclaves will be illuminated at night and will display some colour.
Ken Coit, Art in Public Places coordinator, said the design will be a teaching tool for the public, as well as an area of contemplation and reflection.
“This is supposed to make an emotional connection,” he said.
Coit said the design is influenced by the glass-paneled Vietnam Veterans Commemorative Service Wall in Victoria, Australia unveiled in 2013.
A film on the extra-hard glass will help to ward off vandalism, a concern expressed by Ferguson.
Le’Ann Whitehouse Seely, the supervisor for the Gore Pedestrianization plan, said the film can be removed if the glass has been damaged.
Ward 4 councillor Sam Merulla, a member of the city’s veterans’ subcommittee, confirmed military personnel wanted the memorial to reflect a universal soldier’s service rather than recognize individuals.
“This is a reflection of what they want,” said Merulla. “It has been an on-going, inclusive process.”
Members of the focus group include representatives from the Hamilton Veterans Committee, the Royal Canadian Legion, the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry Association, Colonel Geordie Elms, assistant to Mayor Bob Bratina, and the Canadian International Military Tattoo.
As for vandalism concerns, Merulla pointed out that studies have revealed vandals are hesitant to cause damage to images of Team Canadaor anything related to the military.
“(The memorial) will deter vandalism,” he said. “This is an exciting project.”
Mountain councillor Terry Whitehead said the memorial is not just about veterans, but also should include their families and friends. He has received requests from residents asking that the city create a central area especially reserved for veterans and their families.
Seely said the preliminary design of the project will be on the city’s website within a week, where the public can provide further comments.
“Nothing will be constructed without going through the public comment process,” she said.
City staff will be providing the contractor the final detail designs and installation is scheduled to be substantially completed by the end of December. Further construction will be finished in early 2015 in time for the Pan Am Games set to begin in July, said Seely.
The Veterans’ Place project is part of the larger Gore Park Pedestrianization Initiative that began with the relocation of the MacNab Transit Terminal. The entire idea to make the area more pedestrian friendly began with the Downtown Transportation Master Plan Review that was approved by council in 2008.