Social media was abuzz over the weekend over concerns Red Deer County was making changes to the former Memorial Tree Park, which will now be known as the Leva Avenue Natural Area on Gasoline Alley.
Officials with the County have said there is a misunderstanding about the plans for the site. “It’s taken on an unintended life of its own,” said Curtis Herzberg, County manager, about the social media buzz.
Rosemary Fayant, a resident of Edmonton recently wrote a letter to the Express which stated, “I am very distraught to hear the County of Red Deer has taken over the above Memorial Gardens and is now turning them into a wildlife preserve. They want everything that people have put there as a tribute to their loved ones to be removed by April 1st, or they will remove it and dispose of it,” she wrote, adding a tree is planted in the area for her nephew. “I find this utterly deplorable as it will cause the families to be adversely affected. Not only will they have suffered a loss of their loved one once, but they will now suffer a second loss with the loss of their memorial where they can go and sit and visit their loved one.”
An online petition has been launched and nearly 2,200 signatures have already been gathered. Many have expressed their concerns regarding the changeover to Red Deer County and the thought of having to remove memorabilia from the site.
County officials said more than 700 letters dated Oct. 29th, 2015 were sent to those who have purchased trees on the site, which was formerly owned by Parkland Funeral Home. In the letter it states that the County is asking the families of those who have been commemorated to remove any belongings that may impede the maintenance of the ground by County equipment. These items must be removed by April 15th.
“Anything that is deemed to be a concern for us is subject to removal. If it’s in close to the tree and it’s not going to affect our ability to maintain the area – we’re not concerned. We’re not trying to undo everything someone has done,” said Herzberg.
The County leased the land where the park sits to Parkland Funeral Home a number of years ago. The funeral home’s lease is up this year and they gave notice to the County that they would not be renewing that lease.
There is a sign located at the Memorial Tree Park which has been there since 2010 which states rules and regulations of the area. Some of these rules include Parkland reserves the right to turn the park over to the County of Red Deer without notice; all memorabilia, tributes, materials, signage or other items of remembrance placed in the Memorial Tree Park may be removed at anytime; if you do place items around your tree – you have only a 2.5 feet area from the base of the tree, among others.
“We wanted to let people know that it is not a memorial tree park anymore in that you can’t buy a tree there anymore, but what we are going to do is we are going to continue to maintain these grounds,” said Herzberg. “We’re not changing any rules of any consequence on these grounds.
“We’re in no way shape or form taking down these trees, we’re not converting this land for development. Really what has changed is Parkland Funeral Home has handed it back over to us and we have a park area that we are going to maintain.”