Town of Comox parks superintendent Al Fraser places the James Stratton commemorative plaque at the base of the tree purchased by James’s widow, Lawrance. Inset - the plaque. Photo by Terry Farrell

Courtenay widow turns to Town of Comox for commemorative item to honour late husband

After being turned down by City of Courtenay, Laurance Stratton found Comox more receptive

Courtenay resident Laurance Stratton was surprised when she approached the City about the possibility of buying a memorial bench to honour her late husband.

“I was hoping to get one in Courtenay, but they said definitely not because they had a back-list of (hundreds) of people who want benches,” said Stratton. “Their big issue was ‘what if in a few years the bench needs refurbishing. Who is going to pay for that?’ That was the big thing. I would have been willing to put money in a trust for that, but I guess it’s just too much of a hassle.”

Courtenay council voted to officially discontinue the memorial bench program in May. The program had been “on hold” since 2008, although the City did maintain a waitlist in case the program ever re-booted.

Recreation director Dave Snider told The Record council’s decision in May was for the discontinuation of any sort of memorial program.

The Village of Cumberland has no memorial programs in place, and has no plans for any form of memorial program.

RELATED: Courtenay council discontinues memorial bench program

Undaunted, Stratton continued to search for an opportunity.

She eventually called the Town of Comox, and found out it has a comparable initiative, only not with benches – with trees.

For a $200 donation, the Town of Comox will plant a tree, complete with a memorial plaque.

Parks superintendent Al Fraser said the tree-planting program has been in existence for a long time, and is replacing their own bench program, which has reached a saturation point.

The tree-planting initiative makes more sense on many levels.

“In keeping with trying to offset the adverse effects of climate change, and further supporting our urban forest [canopy] as it pertains to Comox, and the whole Valley, donator programs such as [this one] are just a wonderful way of getting those targets of reducing and absorbing carbon emissions, as well as providing shade and cover for our pedestrians and our wildlife,” said Fraser.

And when planting trees can be done in a commemorative fashion, it becomes even more attractive.

“It’s a way of recognition to those who have gone before us, and just a wonderful way of honouring their memory, all the while supporting our urban forest canopy cover,” said Fraser.

The program is not limited to Comox residents – Stratton lives in East Courtenay. The only caveat is the tree must be planted in Comox.

Stratton said the location of her tree is ideal, because she and her husband used to enjoy walks along that route.

Anyone who is interested in signing up for the commemorative tree-planting program can call Fraser at 250-339-2421.

The cost is $200 and includes a tree and a plaque.

He said there are no plans to cap the number of commemorative trees available.

“All we ask is patience,” said Fraser. “As inquiries come in and donations stack up, we will be compiling a list of donors that wish to participate in the program. From there we will have to chart the course, going forward, as to where [the trees] are going to be deployed. The species, the sizing, and locations will all have to be considered, so it will take some time.”

Fraser estimates there have been more than 100 trees already planted through this donor initiative. He said that while the bench program has reached its maximum at this point, there is a possibility of more benches, if future developments lend themselves to such amenities.

Meanwhile, Stratton is thrilled with her choice.

“The more I think of the tree instead of the bench, the more I like the idea. We all need more trees,” she said.

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