May 3, 2020
By: Adam Reeson
I’ve often said that the city of Regina, Saskatchewan is an underrated place to live. The cost of living is reasonable, the people are nice… and oh ya its also the home of the Saskatchewan Roughriders!
But beyond all of that, one of the best parts of the city is at times under-appreciated. Wascana Park is one of the largest urban parks in Canada. As the weather warms up in the Spring, thousands take a walk, go for a run or ride their bike along the scenic shores of Wascana Lake. Enjoying the park is a Queen City tradition that dates back over a century.
But, this year has taken the popularity of the park to a whole new level.
To “flatten the curve” of the COVID-19 pandemic, people have been told to stay home and avoid gathering with others whenever possible. This has caused a lot of us to go a little stir-crazy, looking for things to do to get a little exercise and get out of the house for a while. Somewhat predictably, this has made Wascana Park look like Arcola Avenue during rush hour. Even with the best of intentions, social distancing is challenging due to the sheer number of people.
To avoid the crowds, many people in Regina are getting creative by taking their recreation to an unlikely place – Riverside Memorial Park Cemetery. I’ve been going there for years for work and usually see the occasional person taking a walk and I always thought “why don’t more people walk here?”
There are paved roads and the grounds are beautifully landscaped to create a natural, peaceful environment. While I was there in late April taking measurements to match a monument for a family, a Father and his teenage daughter rode by on their bicycles. Did they feel awkward about being in a cemetery? Hardly. The two had smiles a mile wide and were having a conversation as they cycled across the cemetery.
Now, I may be a little biased because of what I do for a living, but taking a walk in a cemetery provides something most parks can’t. The opportunity to look at the different monuments adds to the experience. Nowhere else can you get some fresh air and learn about family members or community leaders.
As more and more people enjoy the recreation cemeteries have to offer, this must be a very new idea brought on by COVID-19 and social distancing, right?
Believe it or not, in the 19th and early part of the 20th centuries, family picnics and community gatherings often took place in North American cemeteries.
One reason was because many emerging communities lacked sufficient recreational infrastructure in those days. However, the bigger reason was that society had a different relationship with memorialization than we do today. Back then, cemeteries weren’t thought of as “creepy” places (much of that narrative is a result of how cemeteries are depicted in movies and TV shows).
Instead, cemeteries were embraced for what they were. Beautiful, peaceful settings to gather with family and friends to enjoy each other’s company and remember their loved ones.
So, when the Coronavirus eventually ends, let’s continue to re-discover our cemeteries as a place of recreation and remembrance.
I’ll be the red-headed guy in the grey Frontier shirt waving hello!