A fundraiser for a new fence at The Westray Miners Memorial Park in New Glasgow took a mere five weeks to reach its goal.
And for that, Allen Martin is grateful.
The park was opened on the first-year anniversary of the Westray Mine disaster, so has been operational now for almost 25 years. Martin says within that quarter century of time, there has been almost constant vandalism and destruction there.
“We’ve cleaned up broken glass and broken bottles, young guys would drive in and do donuts in the parking lot and tear up the sod in the park and damage the asphalt…” Martin lists.
No one was ever charged and no one was ever caught.
“We’ve taken precautions to protect the park,” he said. “We installed extra lighting, posted signage listing the park’s open hours and where to dispose of trash, installed a metal gate — that came as a recommendation from the police department — so people can’t drive through when the park is closed.”
Now, he fears, the damage is being done by “people who should know better. Parents or people coming to the school (North Nova Education Centre) to pick up their kids are parking on the grass and all over the park property to wait for them; now they are driving around the gate and parking on the lawn.”
And it’s causing damage — costly damage — to the park and its grounds.
Because of this, a Go Fund Me campaign was started in mid-December to raise money to build a fence (434 square feet) to protect the property. The campaign finished in mid-January when more than $7,000 was raised in just five weeks. There were approximately 50 donors in that short length of time, Martin said.
“The USW suggested the campaign and looked after organizing it.”
Martin, a member of the Westray Families Group which was responsible for getting the park built, hopes this will stop the vandalism.
“I’d like people to have more respect for the park and what it represents,” he said.
“People need to understand that 11 bodies were never brought to the surface after the Westray Mine explosion, so for the families of those miners — and I’m one of them — this is where we come to visit the grave site. This is an important and meaningful place for us, what it represents. Damage here is desecrating sacred ground for us. It’s thoughtlessness.”
Martin lost his brother, Glenn, in the explosion that took the lives of 26 miners in May 1992. The park is dedicated to the memory of those who lost their lives in the blast and it was the brainchild of the Westray Families Group. “Joe MacKay was the driving force. He asked for it and volunteered to start a committee to get it going,” Martin said. Like Martin, MacKay lost a brother, Mike, in the mine tragedy.
Today, Allen and his wife Debbie look after the park.
“The memory of our lost loved ones deserves no less.”
Allen Martin stands in front of the granite memorial at the Westray Miners Memorial park. He is pleased that a Go Fund Me campaign to raise money for a fence at the park to prevent vandalism was successful. (Jardine photo)