British Columbia

A Vancouver woman tried to brighten a memorial bench. Now the city's removing it

A Vancouver woman spent days painting a memorial bench on Kitsilano Beach for her late partner. But the City of Vancouver says painting memorial benches is not allowed, and it's now going to be removed.

She painted a colourful design to pay tribute to her late partner, not cause trouble

Julia Goudkova said she didn't want to cause trouble, but would like to continue a conversation with the city instead of having the bench removed so quickly. (CBC/Andrea Ross)

Julia Goudkova thought painting her late partner's memorial park bench was a great way to celebrate his memory.

Colin Mackay died in a motorcycle accident in July 2015. Goudkova spent much of the past week sanding, washing, priming and painting the memorial bench at Kitsilano Beach vivid colours of yellow, red, teal and white. 

Now the City of Vancouver says it has to go. 

"They said that ... it would impede with the uniformity of the look of the park," Goudkova said Wednesday evening, as she finished touching up some yellow leaves. 

"They basically said they qualify it as tagging, as graffiti and vandalism."

Painting memorial park benches is not allowed, city spokeswoman Daria Wojnarski said in an email. In keeping with "overall park design," the bench will be replaced with a new one as soon as possible, she added.

But on Thursday, the city decided removal could wait until after July 2 when a memorial will be held at the park for Mackay.

A personalized plaque on a park bench for 10 years costs $5,000, according to the city. But such "dedicated park amenities" remain property of the park board.

The city said the donor of the bench was not aware that it had been painted and supported having it removed.

Julia Goudkova said she was told by the city that the bench she painted would "impede with the uniformity of the look of the park" and would need to be removed. (CBC/Andrea Ross)

That donor, Colin Mackay's younger brother, Angus Mackay, said that's not entirely true.

"I have no bones with the painting of the bench, it's fine by me," he said, although he added he was not told or consulted about plans to paint the bench and has not yet seen it in person. 

If he was consulted, he said he would have advised against painting it because he would have expected the park board to treat it as graffiti.

He respects the rules in place, he said, and recognizes that paying for a memorial bench is essentially a lease. 

But he would like to see it stay at least until the upcoming memorial.

"I definitely think they could show some compassion and leave it in place for a week," he said.

Goudkova says her partner of 10 years was a big supporter of the arts, and the bench was deteriorating and in need of some upkeep.

While she was painting it, she said passersby stopped to ask her about it, share their own stories of love and loss, or just admire the colours.

Goudkova said after receiving positive feedback from people in the park, she wanted to offer to paint other benches nearby. 

She has lived in Kitsilano for 10 years, she said, and she'd love to help brighten the neighbourhood — especially during the gloomy times of the year. 

"I would love to be able to reason with the city. I'm not here to cause trouble. I understand that people are just trying to do their jobs," she said.

"I believe there is an opportunity to continue the conversation instead of quickly removing the bench."

The bench is near Maple Street and Ogden Avenue on Kits Point in Vancouver. A plaque on it says "Colin Mackay 1973 - 2015. He lived each day as his last and followed his passion. Forever loved and missed." (CBC/Andrea Ross)

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