A man who set up a memorial to his former girlfriend after her body was discovered in North Vancouver’s Bridgman Park last year says he’s heartbroken that the municipality dismantled the cross and small garden where he used to go to remember her.
Jimmy Webster had a six-year relationship with Lisa Dawn MacPherson, a 41-year-old North Vancouver woman whose burned remains were discovered in a park shelter last November, the victim of an apparent homicide.
Webster said he’s struggled to cope since learning in January of MacPherson’s death.
One way he sought solace was to visit the park where her body was found, he said.
At first, he and other friends placed flowers and photographs near the concrete shelter in the park where her remains were discovered.
But those makeshift mementos got “slashed by some partygoers,” he said. “The flowers were stomped and kicked all over,” he said, and lawn chairs had been set up.
Webster said he decided to make a more permanent memorial near to the site, and built a cross that he cemented into place, attaching photos in plastic coverings. He also planted flowers in the ground.
“I would go there once a week,” he said, adding having a place to go to think about his friend helped ease his grief.
Webster said he didn’t want to offend anyone with the memorial and asked the regular dog walkers he encountered in the park if they were OK with the memorial. They were supportive, he said.
But when Webster went to the memorial site on Saturday he discovered that it had been dismantled by District of North Vancouver parks crews, along with the shelter.
“Everything was gone. It was just dirt and rocks and tire tracks,” he said.
Webster said he contacted district staff, who told him memorials aren’t allowed in public parks and advised that he could come and collect the photos, which had been saved for him. Webster said he was told he could buy a memorial bench for $2,220.
Webster said he’s now started a gofundme campaign to raise money to do that.
Stephanie Smiley, spokeswoman for the district, confirmed both the shelter and the memorial were removed two weeks ago.
The old shelter was considered unsafe and “we had received complaints about it being a late-night hangout spot for youth,” said Smiley.
Smiley said district staff left a note on the site before taking it down and made efforts to contact MacPherson’s family, but didn’t hear from anyone.
She added all of the personal items from the memorial were packed up and stored, and the plants repotted and kept safe.
Lisa’s father, George MacPherson, said he was aware of the existence of the memorial and the district’s plans to remove it, but declined to comment further.
Webster, meanwhile, questions why his memorial was removed when other memorials to dogs are allowed to remain in the park undisturbed.
Smiley said the district is aware of the dog memorials and plans to remove those too once a new memorial program for pets is in place. Owners will be notified in advance, she added.
The decision to remove the cross and photos has prompted discussion among regular users of the park.
Most have publicly supported Webster, saying the memorial wasn’t harming anyone. But others said the highly visible site made them uncomfortable.
Cpl. Meghan Foster of the RCMP’s Integrated Homicide Investigation Team said the investigation into MacPherson’s death is ongoing.