A plan is afoot to rename Cloverdale’s Hawthorne Square.
A committee from the Cloverdale Rodeo and Exhibition Association attended the BIA’s monthly board meeting this past December to discuss the idea.
“(They) want to honour a gentleman who passed away named Will Senger,” said Paul Orazietti, executive director of the BIA. “They did some preliminary research and didn’t find there was any historical significance with the name Hawthorne. Hawthorne was the original name of the road.”
Senger, a longtime rodeo volunteer, passed away in 2017. He was a familiar face at the Stetson Bowl.
“Will has been a part of the Cloverdale Rodeo family since the very beginning,” rodeo president Shannon Claypool told the Cloverdale Reporter shortly after Senger’s death in 2017. “He was a legendary cowboy, a pioneer of this event, and an incredible champion of Cloverdale and Surrey.”
After Senger’s death, Claypool, Rocky Rockwell, Penny Smythe, and Jamie Rogers formed a committee to advocate for a memorial of some kind.
“When Will passed away, we felt strongly that there needed to be something appropriate and permanent to honour him in Cloverdale,” Claypool said. “He was an an integral part of the rodeo.”
Senger, who started volunteering at the Cloverdale Rodeo in the ’50s, became the rodeo chairman in the middle ’70s.
“We originally wanted a statue of Will, like the other statues in Cloverdale, but the city wasn’t interested. They will allow a statue of a horse, but not a [real] person.”
After the idea for a statue was kiboshed, they turned their focus to Hawthorne Square.
Claypool said the idea to rename the square was the brainchild of Rogers, an administrator with the Cloverdale Rodeo.
And while renaming the square is now at the top of their list, Claypool said the committee supports any type of revitalization of Hawthorne Square that incorporates rodeo elements, including a memorial of some kind for Senger, and attracts more visitors to the square.
“We’d like to have something permanent to honour Will, but it’s in the city’s hands now.”
The committee’s proposal, a rodeo-style redevelopment of the square, includes “a new design that would capture a range of Cloverdale Rodeo winners,” noted the December meeting minutes. “The BIA did express a desire to have the square updated with public art, new landscaping, signage and other place making elements like heritage storyboards capturing the town centre’s significant historic moments.”
Orazietti also said any name changes will have to be approved by the city.
“We haven’t taken a formal position on (changing the name), because it’s really a city responsibility. The city would have to go through a process to vet (the name change) to see if it’s appropriate.”
Orazietti added the BIA has been talking about revitalizing the square for a long time. And while he’s not opposed to renaming the square, he’s not advocating for it either. He just wants the square rejuvenated and reworked into something residents and visitors can get more use out of.
“I’m in favour of revitalizing the square, but I’m not in a position to dictate what it will be. That includes taking a position on renaming it Will Senger Square,” he said. “There’s been a lot of discussion about adding some heritage components. Does it really want to be a rodeo square, or does it want to be a pioneer square that includes rodeo history?”
He also said both the BIA and the Chamber would like to see a sign put up with the square’s name on it.
“We want to redevelop it in stages; it’s going to take a lot of money to do it properly,” he explained. “We met with councillor Annis. She’s part of the Surrey Heritage Advisory Commission. She’s going to be working with us on heritage storyboards.”
Orazietti said he’ll continue to work with the Cloverdale Chamber to try to get the city to kick in cash for the project.
He wants to lobby the city for the funds—about $500K—that were approved to help the Surrey Little Theatre find a new home. Those funds were freed up when the SLT decided to move to east and merge with the Langley Players.
“(The BIA) and the Chamber are saying, ‘Hey! You know what? We’d really like to see those funds re-directed and that it could be potentially at Hawthorne Square.’ So the future of Hawthorne Square is really in the hands of the city and it’s going to depend on what department takes ownership of (the square).”
Orazietti added Hawthorne is not considered a park, only a greenspace. He said the BIA has been bouncing from department to department at City Hall in an effort to find out who will take responsibility for the square and what, if any, input and help the BIA can offer.
—with a file from Sam Anderson.