Members of the Royal Canadian Legion Estevan Branch 60 worked diligently in their small Saskatchewan city to gain permission to erect a memorial wall and have a city park renamed as part of a larger plan to pay tribute to past and serving members of the Canadian Armed Forces.
The obstacles the Legion members faced in their effort to find a space suitable to place the monument were mainly bureaucratic and typical to the situation. Estevan’s city council, along with Mayor Roy Ludwig were unanimously supportive of the initial idea, but city and provincial policies had to be followed.
“The process was initiated years ago, by the vice-president of the branch, Lyle Dukart. He wanted a wall naming all of the local vets to be put up. He’s worked for the past eight years gathering the names of 1380 local vets. We had the wall designed and that’s when we ran into problems finding a place to erect it,” explained Troy Leblanc.
At 28 years old, Leblanc is one of the youngest Legion presidents in Saskatchewan, if not the country.
Leblanc urges any individuals or organizations with the idea of renaming or establishing parks in tribute to veterans, not to give up when they are given no for an answer. He and Legion members pushed through several levels of government paperwork before landing on a plan that could work for everyone.
“We had been turned down by the city and the province when seeking space for the wall. I was driving through an area of town with an established park. It occurred to me maybe we could use what’s there already and just rename it. It took a year and a half, but it was worth the work and the wait,” said Leblanc.
At the Estevan city council meeting on January 5, council voted unanimously to give the green light to rename Royal Heights Park. The park will now be known as the Royal Heights Veterans Memorial Park.
Secondary to the renaming of the park, a wall of honour will be constructed near the park’s iconic gazebo. The wall will immortalize the names of all soldiers, sailors and airmen native to Estevan, who served during the First and Second World Wars.
Finally, the plan calls for Estevan Comprehensive School students to paint murals on the gazebo’s ceiling, with the words ‘Lest We Forget’ and ‘We Will Remember Them’ being inscribed on the floor.
Consideration was given to the possibility of moving the city’s cenotaph to the park, from its current location beside Estevan City Hall, but council members expressed concern the cenotaph might be irreparably damaged in the move.
“Now we are united in purpose, Legion members, politicians and youth. Our nearest base is CFB Moosejaw, over two hours away. I can’t let people forget about the military because they are out of sight out of mind. Now we will remember them,” said Leblanc, adding, “Additions to the park will not cost taxpayers anything.”
With a population close to 12,000 people, Estevan is the eighth largest city in Saskatchewan. It is located approximately 16 kilometres north of the Canada and United States border.
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