A hand-painted bench serving as a memorial to a woman's late partner has been removed from a beachside Vancouver park, despite thousands of signatures on a petition to keep it there.
Artist Julia Goudkova decided to paint the bench last year, in honour of her late partner Colin Mackay. Mackay died in 2015 after a motorcycle accident, and his family paid the park board more than $5,000 for the 10-year-long dedication.
The bench spent the last year perched near the small embankment overlooking the ocean at Kitsilano Beach Park.
That is until the brightly-coloured seat suddenly disappeared from its spot.
"On Sunday morning, as usual, I was going for my walk and I sat on the painted bench of my late partner, and come around Monday I saw someone posted on Facebook that the bench had been replaced," Goudkova told CTV News Vancouver.
Tricia Barker of the Vancouver Park Board brought a motion forward to allow unique artistic expression on the uniform benches last year; however the motion was amended to stop people from painting or modifying them.
Meanwhile Goudkova said she reached an agreement with the park board expecting to be notified before moving the hand-painted memorial.
She said that hasn't happened yet.
The artist launched an online petition to keep Mackay's painted bench at its spot near the tide when it was first set to be removed last year. More than 10,000 people have now signed since her update Monday.
"There are so many ways that the city has been embracing public art, such as the mural program we have. It seems like an opportunity to create more beauty, more colour and connection for our communities to enjoy," she said in a phone interview Thursday.
Goudkova said she attended the in-person and online park board meetings where the beautifications plan was discussed last year, and was disappointed her petition was never mentioned.
Goudkova says she isn't frustrated by the decision, but feels as though there is a missed opportunity.
"There’s so many ways they could still make it within the scope and create a more cohesive vision, with all the images approved, but it doesn’t make sense that they’re not reviewing that option at all," she said.
In a statement emailed to CTV News Vancouver, the park board confirmed it removed the bench for not complying with its policy regarding the Dedicated Park Bench program. They say a new bench has been installed with a memorial plaque that matches the "exact language" provided.
The statement continues, saying the park board’s manager of fundraising and development, Josie Riebe, has had several conversations with Mackay's family and Goudkova to "seek a sensitive and compassionate path forward" while adhering to its policy.
"The painted bench is currently in the Park Board’s secure storage and Riebe continues to engage with the donor, and the individual who painted the bench, on next steps," concluded the statement.
"I just feel like it's definitely missed a missed opportunity in such a vibrant multicultural city like Vancouver," said the artist.
"We're all hoping for a positive outcome."
Goudkova's petition can be found here.