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National historic site in Calgary hit by ‘really sad’ theft during COVID-19 crisis

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WATCH: A piece of Calgary’s history has been stolen and it’s a theft that may be related to the COVID-19 pandemic. As Gil Tucker reports, it’s an ugly moment in a spot renowned for its beauty – May 13, 2020

A piece of Calgary’s history has been stolen, in a theft that may be related to the COVID-19 pandemic — an ugly moment in a spot renowned for its beauty.

A commemorative plaque has been pried off a stone cairn in the Reader Rock Garden.

“It’s a national historic site,” the Friends of Reader Rock Garden Society president Diane Dalkin said. “Three acres of gorgeous garden that was established in 1913.”

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The plaque honours William Roland Reader, the man who created the garden on a hillside just south of Stampede Park.

“(The plaque) has been here for almost 80 years, undisturbed and welcoming visitors here,” Dalkin said.  “So it looks really sad now, with it missing.”

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Reader created the garden while serving as Calgary’s superintendent of parks, a position he held for three decades.

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“He was a busy guy,” Dalkin said. “He and his family lived (on the garden site) for almost 30 years and they basically turned this bare hillside that had tumbleweed growing on it into a lovely area.”

It’s an area that’s been quieter than usual this spring because of the COVID-19 restrictions, which may have been a factor in the theft.

“It was an ideal situation for these vandals who took advantage of the quiet time to take the plaque,” Dalkin said. “It’s made out of brass — it’s not copper — and we’re thinking maybe folks thought it was copper, (which) they could melt down and get something for it.”

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Dalkin and her fellow volunteers with the Friends of Reader Rock Garden Society are making an appeal to whoever stole the plaque.

“You’ve hit a nerve with a lot of people — the public is quite angry that you’ve taken something that belongs to this garden,” Dalkin said.

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“It’s of no use to you, it’s much better back here, so please do reconsider. No questions asked: if it shows up back at the garden, we will be thrilled with that.”

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