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Woodlands Memorial Garden

The Woodlands Memorial Garden is in New Westminster, B.C. on McBride Avenue near Blackberry Drive. The site remembers and celebrates the lives of people who lived and died in Woodlands Institution.

What happened to the Woodlands Cemetery?

In 1996, B.C. families and self-advocates, working in partnership with government, achieved a major long-term goal - the closure of Woodlands, the last and largest of B.C.'s institutions for people with developmental disabilities, located in New Westminster.

During an oral history project with former residents of Woodlands and other institutions for people with developmental disabilities, the story of what happened to the Woodlands cemetery came to light.

Attached to Woodlands was a cemetery where over 3,300 former residents of Woodlands were buried. When the construction of Queen's Park Hospital began in 1977 beside the Woodlands property, the cemetery was closed and made into a park. At that time over 1,800 grave markers were removed and all but a few hundred were "recycled" or disposed of. Some were used to make a barbeque patio on the Woodlands site for the use of staff. Others went off site for use at construction sites, and others were used to build retaining walls for the creek flowing through the Woodlands property.

In 1999, the BC Self Advocacy Foundation and the BC Association for Community Living, with the support of the provincial government, began planning the Woodlands Memorial Garden. The garden was designed by Erik Lees and Associates, who received a partnership award from BCACL for their dedicated and creative work on the garden.

About the Design

The memorial garden design includes three key elements. A memorial sculpture called the "Window Too High" references the experience of institution residents who could not see out of the high barred windows. A reflective pond uses a pattern of stones under water that echoes the pattern of burials in the cemetery. And finally, the names of all those buried in the cemetery were restored to memorial walls placed in groups along a pathway that circles the cemetery site. Each memorial wall has an inset into it grave markers that have been salvaged, along with plaques engraved with names of those whose stones were not recovered.

On June 27, 2007, the Woodlands Memorial Garden was officially opened to the public.

Resources

Provincial Government news release

Article in the Burnaby News Leader

Article in the Globe and Mail (July 18, 2005)