March 3, 2017 12:35 am
Updated: March 3, 2017 12:38 am

London names temporary Vimy Ridge Park in time for battle’s 100th anniversary

Land at Hale and Trafalgar streets in London known locally as Vimy Ridge Park, now has an official -- but temporary -- name.

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What’s in a ‘temporary’ name?

London city council discussed that issue Thursday night, before voting 11-2 in favour of temporarily naming a local parkette next to the Charlie Fox roundabout at Hale and Trafalgar Streets as Vimy Ridge Park.

Ward 5 Councillor Maureen Cassidy tabled the amendment, noting conversations she’d had with veterans about choosing a fitting tribute to those who fought and died during the battle.

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“Some of the comments I received was that this needs a deeper look, and that maybe we’re rushing this,” she explained. “One thing that these service people wanted me to consider, wanted this council to consider, [was] will this site still be the site… in 20 years’ time.”

The temporary idea sparked disapproval from Ward 2 Counc. Bill Armstrong, whose own effort to suggest the same name for a park in the city’s east end was the next item of debate.

“You want to make this a temporary site. Temporary sites become permanent sites. You don’t give somebody something, and take it away later,” said Armstrong, who voted against the compromise and urged council to consider renaming Mildred Barons Park, at 444 Kathleen Ave., instead.

“It’s a community park that I found back in November 2014 … that wasn’t being used at all. I discovered this park,” said Armstrong, who claims he then approached community members about developing the site and changing its name.

“Somewhere along the road, another proposal … was brought forward. The exact same proposal: ‘Let’s change the name of a park or a piece of land to Vimy Ridge.'”

The Battle of Vimy Ridge happened in April 1917, and has major historical significance for Canada as the first time when all four Canadian military divisions fought cohesively and helped forge national unity and identity. This April marks the centenary of the battle.

“It’s not like it was a surprise that the 100th anniversary was coming. To be a month away from an event, and to be scrambling to find a way to make it work is unfortunate,” said Ward 7 Counc. Josh Morgan. “This is very uncomfortable and very unfortunate that we’re having this particular discussion and that we’re trying to find a solution with such a tight timeframe.”

Faced with a time crunch, council voted to temporarily name the strip of land near Hale and Trafalgar as Vimy Ridge Park – but the next anniversary of the battle may be marked elsewhere.

Council has given themselves a six-month timeline to decide on the site for a permanent Vimy Ridge Park, and Armstrong’s proposed Kathleen Ave. site has been referred back to the Community and Protective Services committee.

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