The City of Abbotsford is under fire for removing a memorial mural to a young skateboarder – less than three weeks after the teenager’s life was cut tragically short.
“It makes no sense,” said Evan Taylor-Staples, a long-time friend of the teen. “It’s not vandalism or something bad.”
Jorden Child died after crashing his car on a rural road in Chilliwack on Sept. 3, just as he was entering his graduating year of high school.
“It’s one of those things you hear, it takes a minute to settle in,” said friend Travis Regier. “It just kind of stops everything in the world for a second.”
Some of his friends decided to mourn his passing by erecting a memorial at the McMillan Skatepark where Child used to hang out, complete with flowers, candles and skateboards.
They also organized a spray-painted a mural in the teenager’s memory, part of which read: “Long live Jowdy.”
But as the community continues grappling with the sudden loss, some of Child’s friends were stunned and outraged to learn the City of Abbotsford was removing the tributes.
“It wasn’t bothering anybody,” said Taylor-Staples. “I didn’t have one single person say like, oh my god this place is gross.”
“I want to quickly vocalize my absolute disgust,” Travis Regnier said in a Facebook post. “The city left a note at Jorden's memorial a week or so ago saying that they would remove any items left at the park after only two weeks due to safety risks and that if not claimed after a period of time they would be disposed of.”
He also lamented that the city had already gone ahead and removed the “BEAUTIFUL tribute murals that members of or community put IMMENSE effort into to honour our lost friend.”
A written notice dated Sept. 12 warns that any physical memorial items would be removed in 15 days, and kept for an additional 30 days at the parks office so people can claim them.
It goes on to note that the city’s “official commemorative and memorial parks gift program offers options to provide a gathering place for friends and family and opportunities for rest or quiet reflection,” according to a picture of the notice that was shared on social media.
A spokesperson for the city confirmed that a cleanup service was contracted to remove “garbage and damaged fencing, broken glass and graffiti” from the park over concerns that they could post a hazard to users.
Regier told CTV News that for years skaters have complained about safety concerns such as damaged railings and cracks in the cement.
“It’s kind of fallen on deaf ears,” he said. “A lot of kids feel targeted.”
“We empathize with the grief that many (of our) youth are facing and we support the youth in finding respectful and meaningful outlets at this difficult time,” the city spokesperson said in an email statement.
“Everybody says that they want to help us grieve but the best way to help us grieve is allow us to be with Jorden as much as we can,” said friend Tayton Giengor.
His friends say Child was at the skate park all the time.
"He had the biggest smile in the world,” said Giengor.
They considered the park his place, and told CTV News the art work brought them comfort.
“It actually felt like he was here," Giengor said.
Friends believe there should be something to commemorate him there. And the city said it’s willing to work with those interested to make “a lasting memorial.”
Teenagers at the park who spoke to CTV News on Friday said they understood the need to address the physical memorial, which was originally placed in the middle of the skateboarding area and resulted in some glasss from the candles being littered on the ground.
But the items have since been moved to another area of the park, and the skateboarders said they couldn’t understand why the memorial would have to be removed altogether so shortly after Child’s death.