City missed the boat on Bowring Park celebrations

Published on July 10, 2014
The Peter Pan statue in Bowring Park. — Telegram file photo

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.

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