Calgary

Anonymous prank bench plaques re-installed by city after public outcry

This week, an unknown person installed some bench plaques professionally engraved with "historical facts" at Bowmont Park in northwest Calgary.

Mayor Nenshi says the prank plaques are witty and increase Calgarians' enjoyment of parks

Mayor Nenshi says the plaques were removed under a city policy that doesn't allow for any unauthorized art installations or memorial plaques, but were put back up after the positive feedback from Calgarians. (City of Calgary)

Calgarians could use a good laugh, and even though it came in the form of unauthorized park bench plaques, the mayor said he is thankful for some humour in today's world.

This week an unknown person installed some bench plaques professionally engraved with "historical facts" at Bowmont Park in northwest Calgary.

While the statements engraved on the professional-looking plaques are clearly in no way accurate, they seem to have given most readers a smile.

One reads: "Benjy, the first hamster to fly solo around the world, took off from this spot in April 1937."

Another said "Nothing of note happened here — or at least that is what they want you to believe."

Upon hearing about the plaques, the city removed them. The official reason, revealed in a tweet, was due to a policy around commemorative plaques and graffiti.

However, the public reaction was so positive, the city has now re-installed the plaques.

"We need a bit of whimsy in our 2020 world and certainly at the city we encourage citizens to do a little bit of guerilla art and a little bit of fun things to make their neighbours smile," Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi told CBC's As It Happens on Friday. ⁠

Nenshi says despite it being fake facts on the plaques, the professional quality and good-natured humour gave the city reason to keep them on park benches.

"The news out there is tough," said the mayor.

"So a little plaque about a flying hamster is a perfect way to kick off our Thanksgiving and I'm grateful for the vandal that put these plaques up."

Nenshi says he first noticed the news of the signage on social media and sent a note to city staff about them being fun and not doing any harm.

  • Check our Mayor Nenshi's full interview on As It Happens where he explains the decision to re-install the fake bench plaques.
Earlier this week, six new commemorative plaques appeared in Calgary's Bowmont Park. They look official, but they're not, which is why the city removed them. But visitors to the park loved them so much, the city brought them back, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi told AIH guest host Peter Armstrong. 6:35

"We got to have rules and ways in which the government works but one of the things that has been important for me in the nearly 10 years I've been in office is something I call 'transforming government,'" he said.

"Its really about helping us understand when we have to be the head, the regulator and when we're protecting peoples safety…and when we should be enabling citizens to do great things."

The City of Calgary tweeted that if you visit Bowmont Park, you will now find all six signs.

As well, if Calgarians have any other creative ideas for park signage or installations, to contact them at 311.

Calgarians react

Many took to Twitter this week to react to the new bench signage, exclaiming that they will have to set time aside to check them out.

One Twitter user under the handle @WilluMilkit thanked the city for putting them back.

"They are not offensive at least and someone has a sense of humour. Today was horrible and this made me laugh especially the UFO landing one. Now, I will visit this park to find these. Like a #treasurehunt," wrote the user.

Justin Connelly, another Twitter user, also wrote that he loved that the city chose to put them back.

"This could be the start of a great idea to get Calgarians to explore their own urban playground," he wrote.

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