Commission suggests Stewart Park too small to host expanded memorial garden

LACONIA — Laconia Parks Commissioner George Hawkins told his colleagues last night that he believes that a proposed expansion of the Parents of Murdered Children Memorial at Stewart Park is too much for the small park above Winnipesaukee River in downtown Laconia to handle.
''The memorial area is not expandable,'' said Hawkins, who suggested that if a statewide memorial, which would include a memorial wall, is to be located in the city, that either Opechee Park or Tardif Park would be better suited as a site.
''Stewart Park is not the place to do it,'' said Hawkins, ''we should look at something that's permanent.''
The commission took no vote on the matter and indicated it would continue to evaluate the proposal.
The proposed expansion came before the commission when it met last month and Carmen Doucette, president of the Lakes Region chapter of the Nationwide Organization of Parents of Murdered Children, asked for permission to add more brick pavers and a small plaque to the current memorial.
There are currently 90 bricks surrounding several rose bushes, 16 of which are not engraved, which in May of 2012 was dedicated as the N.H. Homicide Memorial Garden in a ceremony attended by representatives of the N.H. Attorney General's Office.
Chairman Jeff Pattison said that the commission has received recent correspondence from the New Hampshire Attorney General's Office about the expansion of the memorial which indicated there was no expectation on the part of the state that it's up to Laconia to provide a site for the project.
The Stewart Park site was dedicated in September of 2011 as a Memorial Rose Garden during the annual National Day of Remembrance or Murder Victims.
Doucette, whose daughter was killed by her estranged husband in Plymouth in 1990, led the effort to create the memorial garden. The Victim Witness Unit of the N.H. Attorney General's Office works closely with organizations like that headed by Doucette.
It is not the first time that Stewart Park has been the center of controversy over a monument. During the 1980s there was a move to have a large statue of a Native American carved by artist Peter Toth located in Stewart Park. But the Parks Commission decided the statue was too large and out of scale for the park and it ended up being located at Opechee Park.