Whether their memories are clear or cloudy, everyone who ever hung out around the Bannerman Park bandstand has them, and St. John’s Mayor Dennis O’Keefe is no exception.
Following Monday’s regular council meeting, the mayor said nostalgia, history and culture are some of the reasons why he’d like to see the bandstand saved.
“I look upon the bandstand as being the heart, the symbol of Bannerman Park, much the same as the bungalow is in Bowring Park,” he said regarding the Bannerman Park redevelopment plan (a skating trail and proposed pavilion.)
“It’s the only longstanding structure left in the park dating back to 1950. It is a structure that has many memories for a whole lot of people,” said O’Keefe.
Parks and recreation committee chairman Coun. Frank Galgay was expected to present an option of the proposed plan to council for approval Monday. However, when he stood to make his recommendation, he instead asked for it to be postponed until next week at the request of the mayor.
O’Keefe said it was deferred for a week in order to allow Tract Consulting, the consulting firm involved in the redevelopment and revitalization of Bannerman Park, the time to give the full council a briefing on the options available, including the option of integrating the bandstand in the new concept plan for the park.
“The committee has all of the information, but I think it would be wise for Tract Consulting to meet with the full council, and that will happen next Monday and council will then make a decision. The future of the bandstand is a decision of council. Council has a very good working relationship and partnership with the Bannerman Park Foundation, and we have a Bannerman Park master plan just like we have a Bowring Park master plan. But each of the projects involved in the plan would have to have approval by council, so it’s good for the full council to have a briefing before we actually vote,” said the mayor.
According to the parks and recreation committee’s report to council, it was recommending council approve option No. 1, which is “to demolish and replace the existing bandstand with a larger, more accessible pavilion conducive to various uses which at present cannot be accommodated by the existing structure; that the roof design of the new structure be reflective of the simple roof design of the existing bandstand; that council approve the concept design for the skating trail proposed to surround the new pavilion.”
The other options outlined in the report are — retain and repair the existing bandstand, adaptive reuse/redesign of the existing bandstand, or retain existing bandstand (as an ornamental piece) and construct a new pavilion.
“Some people have told me their memories are dubious; others have said they’re great. Being a west ender, I have my memories, one in particular of the bandstand, and I’m sure the bandstand touches the hearts of a lot of people in this city. So I see no reason why the option we can select, and it is one of the options, is we have the skating trail which I think is marvellous, we have the pavilion and we also, as part of that process, keep the bandstand and refurbish it to some degree. There’s no reason why we can’t have both,” he said.
The mayor’s particular memory of the Bannerman Park bandstand involves a buddy and two bicycles.
O’Keefe recalled he and his friend rode from their downtown St. John’s homes to the park one day and when they got to the bandstand they decided to ride like the wind around it, in different directions. He said that lasted for about four minutes before the two smashed into each other and they had to hobble home, pushing their bikes.
“So no matter what the memory,” he said, “everyone has one.”