Marie Harvey’s daily routine includes a glimpse out the window of her riverside home to check on Charlie’s bench.
Charlie Harvey’s memorial bench sits on Riverside Avenue near the old Elks lot and faces the Victoria Street Bridge so anyone choosing to pass a few moments at the site can gaze over the mighty Columbia River from the peaceful viewpoint.
“My family wanted to do something in memory of Charlie,” said Marie. “They didn’t want to waste money on flowers so I told my sister I was thinking of a bench. She told the rest of the family and that was how it came about, from our whole family in memory of Charlie.”
The park bench is one of 113 donated by families through the city’s memorial bench program, which encourages passersby to stop for a moment and remember Trail’s finest on a comfortable perch or at a picnic table.
The most favoured area for the benches has been Gyro Park, but Trail continues to expand opportunities in public parks and on city land, so benches can be anchored in spots especially meaningful to the person being remembered.
“It makes me feel good when I see people sitting on Charlie’s bench,”said Marie. “Because I know they stop and look at his plaque each time that happens.”
The city has opened up Jubilee Park along the Esplanade by pouring concrete pads to accommodate more benches, said Andrea Jolly, Trail’s communication and events coordinator. “The natural light is really appealing to enjoy the park and to place a bench there.”
Some benches are open to sponsorship along the Esplanade, Jolly added, noting that if the pedestrian bridge proceeds to become a component of the riverwalk, there is further potential for more benches in that location.
Since the program’s inception 15 years ago, the total community contribution towards the memorial initiative nears $134,000.
The nonprofit program offers a six-foot aluminum bench for $1,200 that includes installation, a four-by-six inch bronze plaque and the maintenance of the bench for 10 years.
When sewer problems forced workers to dig up the area where her husband’s bench was located a few years ago, Marie said the city looked after the bench in storage until the pipes were repaired, then thoughtfully placed Charlie’s bench in its current spot.
“Larry (Abenante) was a very good friend to Charlie so he had it in storage all that time the work was being done,” she said. “It doesn’t really affect the history of the bench because it was put back in a slightly different spot with care.”
Another opportunity for donating park benches will be available this summer as the second leg of downtown Trail’s revitalization plan continues.
Street furniture benches will be installed along the Victoria Street corridor and open to memorial bench sponsorship as requested.
“This has become a very popular program with Trail citizens,” said Jolly. “Many out-of -towners comment on the number of memorial benches. It has become very successful and is a wonderful way to honour the memory of loved ones.”