City missed the boat on Bowring Park celebrations

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Bowring Park will be 100 years old next Wednesday, July 15. It has been serving the citizens of this region since 1915 as a place for the young and the young at heart to relax, play, exercise, wed, celebrate and reflect.

The Peter Pan statue in Bowring Park. — Telegram file photo

Donated to the citizens of the region by Bowring Brothers Limited to commemorate their 100th anniversary, the park was designed by the grandfather of Canadian landscape architecture, Sir Frederick Todd, and built by Rudolph Cochius. All of these people achieved great things in their lifetimes.

I was very fortunate to have been involved with the Bowring family’s renewed interest in Bowring Park in the mid-1990s. Their creation of the Bowring Park Foundation, along with a generous donation of

$1 million, caused a kind of Bowring Park renaissance. This effort of Derrick Bowring and his son-in-law, Bruce Templeton, has levered many more millions of dollars for park improvements.

 When considering the Bowrings’ involvement in the park’s creation, we see a global company with almost 200 years of commerce that includes pioneers in oil production, operation of the largest fleet of ships in the world, the largest insurance company in the world and retail and industry on almost every continent. It was said early in the past century that, as with the British Empire, the sun never set on the Bowring Empire.

Todd’s involvement in Bowring Park’s construction creates ties to New York City’s Central Park, Montreal’s Mount Royal Park, Ottawa’s Parliament Hill design and many other great North American parks and town sites. Cochius went on to built Sir Richard Squires Midstream estate which is now a large part of the western area of the park. He designed and built the first concrete bridge structures on Newfoundland roadways, the very first being a formed concrete bridge built at the entrance to Bowring Park during the park’s construction.

The many magnificent monuments and statues in the park are testament to the fact that people feel comfortable using the beautiful, serene landscape to honour our war dead, veterans, loved ones and pets. When you also consider the millions and millions of visits to Bowring Park in the past century, the myriad of organizations that have helped out along the way, the beautiful structures and fantastic facilities within the park’s 200 acres, it’s easy to understand why this is truly a special place.

It’s very unfortunate that the City of St. John’s has only planned a one-hour outdoor re-enactment on July 13 and a half-hour outdoor event on July 15 to commemorate this most important Bowring Park milestone.

There is a series of one-hour children’s fairytale storytelling sessions being held on Sundays throughout the summer that is being promoted as a 100th anniversary event.

One and a half hours for the public to celebrate the 100 years of enjoyment of this jewel in the crown of city parks is hardly enough time to reflect on, and learn more about, the huge cultural and recreational benefits provided by Bowring Park.

Why not weeks, months even, to view submissions to a photography contest, to take a guided tour, to review the new master plan, hear a talk by some of the many people involved in the park over the years, attend a concert to mark the occasion, thank all the volunteers and supporters, attend a commissioned play by one of our many talented playwrights, view exhibitions of the many historic photographs of the park, or to check out a new commissioned statue to mark the occasion?

These are but a few possibilities.

Had the city truly put its heart into celebrating this momentous occasion, it would have had a hard time creating a shortlist.

This letter is being written on July 8. The anniversary is in one week.

To use a nautical theme that Bowrings would have been able to relate to — unfortunately, we’ve missed the boat.

Jim Ronan

St. John’s

Organizations: Bowring Brothers, Bowring Park Foundation, British Empire North American

Geographic location: Bowring Park, New York City, Central Park Montreal Mount Royal Park Ottawa Newfoundland

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Recent comments

  • MJF Joan Fogarty
    July 11, 2014 - 08:20

    I totally agree. Could have been much better organized and promoted.

  • Agnes Whelan
    July 10, 2014 - 21:40

    Never blame, justify nor deny. People are busy and so sometimes these things happen. July 15th is the celebration of my wonderful daughters 28th birthday also marks the birthday of my hard-working colleagues birthday...amazing Michelle. I have enjoyed Southbrooke trail as often as possible. I have cherished memories with feeding my granddaughter her morning happens....

  • JRM
    July 10, 2014 - 07:22

    1915-2014 is 99 years. The anniversary is next year, unless one of those things is a typo.

    • Moderator
      July 10, 2014 - 10:07

      No, if you count forward and include 1915, it's 100 years.

    • JRM
      July 10, 2014 - 10:38

      the old Y2K/Year Zero argument again. The 100th anniversary of WW1 is this year, it wasn't last year. The 100th anniversary of Beaumont Hamel is coming up in 2016, not 2015. Common practice is to not count zero. the 100th anniversary of Bowring Park is 2015, again unless the Tely typoed and it actually opened in 1914.

    • Stephanie Bowring
      October 26, 2014 - 15:56

      Bowring Park (thank you for pronouncing it baʊ, as in the bow of a ship) was officially opened on 15 July, 1914, no typo there. In 1915, it was its 1st anniversary; in 1916, its 2nd; in 1917, its 3rd; in 1918, its 4th; in 1919, its 5th; in 1920, its 6th; in 1921, its 7th; in 1922, its 8th; in 1923, its 9th. And in 1924, its 10th. So in 1934, its 20th; in 1944, its 30th... So I think we can now all agree without the slightest doubt that 2014 was the 100th anniversary of Bowring Park. I was there with the family, and admit that I would have appreciated if the City of St. John's and the Province via the Rooms had made a bit more of a fuss over it. But then again I'm a bit biased...!