A request that the name of Crofton Beach Park in honour of E.J. Hughes has been denied. (File photo)

North Cowichan denies request to change park name to honour E.J. Hughes

Municipality about to begin review of naming rights

A request to change the name of Crofton Beach Park to “E.J. Hughes Park at Crofton Beach” has been denied by the Municipality of North Cowichan, at least for now.

The Crofton Community Centre Society made the recommendation to North Cowichan last year after its board of directors voted unanimously for it.

In a letter to the municipality in June, society president Tracey Donnelly said E.J. Hughes, an internationally renowned artist, is well known and highly respected in the Cowichan Valley, and many Crofton residents have fond memories of watching him paint local scenes on the beach in Crofton.

“There are no permanent public sites that are dedicated to him at this time,” Donnelly’s letter states. “As his work was and is still so important and recognizable for its style and West Coast flair, we hope you will agree it would honour his memory, his family, and our regard for him to give us the privilege to rename the park in his name.”

But at North Cowichan’s council meeting on Jan. 29, council decided to reject the request pending a broader discussion on the municipality’s parks-naming policy, with the inclusion of consultations with local First Nation communities.

A letter sent to Donnelly in September from North Cowichan’s former corporate officer Karen Robertson stated that council had decided at a closed meeting that month that the municipality will be embarking on an overall review of naming rights so council didn’t want to consider the request in isolation of the process at the time.

The artistic talents of E.J. Hughes, a citizen of Duncan who died in 2007, are recognized throughout the world.

As well as his extensive collection of West Coast art, Hughes served in the Second World War, starting out as a gunner and progressing to the position of Official War Artist.

Hughes, who is a recipient of both the Order of Canada and the Order of B.C., was awarded with honorary doctorates from the University of Victoria and the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design.

The Cowichan Foundation has also been spearheading a campaign to install a bronze statue of Hughes in a prominent place on municipal land, like Charles Hoey Park in Duncan.

The foundation is proposing that the statue be a commissioned artwork of Vancouver Island bronze sculptor Nathan Scott, capturing a moment in the life of Hughes at work on his stool.

The statue project was first proposed almost a decade ago, and the Cowichan Foundation has managed to raise approximately $63,500 towards the $103,500 project through fundraisers, grants and an initial $10,000 that the City of Duncan had committed to the project.

But a request for an additional $40,000 for the statue from the City of Duncan was turned down in December after council said it didn’t have the additional funds for the project.

Fundraising efforts for the statue are continuing.

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