Late Fire Chief LeQuesne Honoured With Community Playground
by Mary P Brooke | Island Social Trends
Over 150 people showed up today for the grand re-opening and dedication of Chief Al LeQuesne Park (formerly Cressida Park) at 2980 Humpback Road in Langford.
The late Al LeQuesne was Langford’s fire chief for 33 years, starting in 1967. In total he devoted 44 years of service to the fire department.
Rain tried to dampen the moment, but held off. Weather was cool for late April, but not as chilly as it had been earlier this week.
Speakers at the event hosted by the City of Langford included Dave LeQuesne (the youngest son of Al LeQuesne), Langford Mayor Scott Goodman, former Langford Mayor Stew Young, Langford Fire Rescue Chief Chris Aubrey, and Langford Director of Parks, Recreation and Facilities Yari Nielsen.
Chief Al LeQuesne joined the Langford Volunteer Fire Department in 1952 at the age of 16. By 1967 he had been named Fire Chief of the Department, a position he held for 33 years. Chief LeQuesne served the Langford community for over four decades, until his retirement in 1996.
He was instrumental in several initiatives that made Langford safer, including acquiring the first set of hydraulic tools (Jaws of Life), establishing a third fire hall near Goldstream Park, and bringing the 911 system to the community.
When Dave LeQuesne addressed the crowd he choked up and paused upon retelling how his father was one of the firefighters (he and Burt Edwards) who brought two dead pilots down from Skirt Mountain after their water bomber crashed.
He thanked the City of Langford for the wonderful park and playground but suggested that memorial parks be built or renamed while the honoured person is still living, so they can enjoy the honour.
“Dad’s Park has a great deal of meaning about a man who gave 44 years to the community of Langford. Our dad, husband, grandparent (of 10) and great-grandparent (of five), and friend was all about family, children, and Langford. Dad would always take time out to show a child the fire truck or fire hall. He always made sure children with disabilities were never left out,” said the honoured man’s son.
Langford Fire Chief’s comments:
Langford Fire Rescue Chief Chris Aubrey said the late Chief Al LeQuesne was a pillar of the community, and thanked the LeQuesne family for “sharing Al with us for so many years”, and added: “Langford is a better place because of his service to the community.”
Aubrey noted that the culture and reputation of a place is something “we inherit from previous generations”.
Regional Fire Chief’s comments:
Fire Chief Paul Hurst thanked the former Langford council to “have the vision to make this happen”. Hurst is the Town of View Royal Fire Chief and is with the Bureau of Fire Rescue.
Hurst described Al LeQuesne as “a leader and mentor” for what is “now a modern fire rescue service” and reminded the crowd how the sacrifice of firefighter families is “as important (as that of) the firefighter”.
“On behalf of myself and Council, we are pleased to see the renovations to Chief Al LeQuesne Park completed,” said Langford Mayor Scott Goodmanson. “We hope this is a meaningful gathering place for the family and friends of Chief LeQuesne, and we want to take this time to acknowledge his service and that of all first responders. Langford Council remains focused on improving accessibility and inclusivity in City parks to allow all residents to play and participate. This park has seen significant improvements with this renovation and will serve the surrounding community for many years to come.”
Former Mayor’s comments:
Until last year, Stew Young had been the Mayor of Langford for 30 years.
“The City was fortunate to have a fire chief like Al LeQuesne,” said Young as he began his remarks. He noted LeQuesne’s “unwavering commitment to the job” and said “he was an inspiration to all who knew him”.
Young retold a bit of a history of the family, saying Al’s parents Ernie and Catherine arrived in the Langford area over 100 years ago. They owned a gas station, towing company and general store. Langford was lucky to have LeQuesne’s commitment and leadershiop “at a certain time when Langford was growing”, said Stew Young. ‘We were in good hands. He was instrumental in making Langford what it is today.”
About the park:
The Park was built in 1981 in the Goldstream Meadows neighbourhood in West Langford. Victoria Contracting & Municipal Maintenance won the bid to renovate the park, and Habitat Systems won the bid to provide the playground equipment. The Park was designed in-house by the City’s Parks and Landscape Design Technologist.
The $600,000 project was funded through Park Improvement DCCs ($550,000) and the Disability and Access Improvements Capital Budget ($50,000).
Prior to the commencement of construction, City of Langford staff consulted with nearby residents and the Willway Elementary School PAC to collect feedback on key features they would like incorporated into the new park design. The renovated Park includes new playground equipment, a walking path, picnic tables (including an accessible picnic table coming soon), benches and newly planted trees and shrubs. All mature trees in the Park were retained.
The playground includes equipment for the two-to-five-year-old age range and five-to-12-year-old age range and features accessible and inclusive elements. The energetic blue and green colour palette was chosen to complement and enhance the park’s natural surroundings.
The playground equipment includes:
- A 20-metre cable zipline
- A 12-ft Super Netplex, which is the only 12-ft tower with accessible centre spiral belting. The belt climber allows those who use wheelchairs and have upper body strength to transfer themselves onto the belt, allowing them to make their way up to the upper levels to play with their peers.
- A Friendship® Swing, which allows several children and adults of various mobilities to swing together. The swing is also set at a transfer height for easy transfer from a wheelchair so that all can swing together.
- A Sway Fun Glider, which is the first wheelchair-accessible glider that meets all safety standards. It features a play table with cup holders and wheelchair handholds and room for two wheelchairs plus two large benches for other passengers. A ramp adds greater accessibility for users of all ages and mobilities.
- A Smart Play® Loft, which includes 20 interactive activities, such as a Mailbox Talk Tube, Alphabet Panel, Belt Climber, Flower/Leaf Spinners and more, all of which address developmentally appropriate skills.
Chief Al LeQuesne Park is located at 2980 Humpback Road. It is easily accessible via the Trans Canada Trail (formerly known as The Great Trail), which runs alongside the park, and limited parking is also available