The Vancouver park board has a poo problem. The trouble, according to board chair John Coupar, is that cleaning it up may damage a piece of public art.
Coupar was talking about bird crap on the steel plates of a memorial commemorating the 1914 Komagata Maru incident. That was the name of a ship bearing 376 passengers from India who were turned away from Burrard Inlet because of a federal law requiring immigrants to undertake a continuous journey to Canada.
“The iron panels…they’ve rusted, which they’re meant to do, so they look like they have a rusted surface on them. The problem is the bird droppings; they stand out against the orange, or the rust,” Coupar told the Straight in a May 25 phone interview.
Two days earlier, Coupar was at an event at the memorial site in Harbour Green Park to remember the 101st anniversary of the arrival of the Komagata Maru.
Pramod Jain, joint secretary of India’s Ministry of Culture, spoke at the event and questioned the memorial’s upkeep. “I request that the maintenance of this memorial requires a fresh look,” Jain said.
According to Coupar, the park board has asked staff to find “some noninvasive way” to clean up the iron panels. “If you were to power-wash it, you would change the whole surface of the metal. If you were to brush it off with a wire brush, you would also kind of damage the surface,” Coupar explained.
Park commissioner Stuart Mackinnon, who was also at the May 23 event, recalled that there was, indeed, a “fair amount of bird droppings”.
Mackinnon told the Straight by phone that he has requested one of the event’s organizers, Naveen Girn, to ask the South Asian community members if they’re happy with the park board’s maintenance of the memorial.
Raj Hundal was chair of the park board when discussions started about finding a place for a memorial to the Komagata Maru incident. Hundal recently visited the site and told the Straight by phone that he felt the “cleanliness of the memorial area needed to be perhaps…looked at better”.
A Komagata Maru walking tour will be held on Wednesday (May 27), starting at 5:30 p.m. at the memorial.