Whistler’s newest park in honour of resident and historian Florence Petersen officially opened on August 28 to mark the one-year anniversary of her passing.
Despite the rain and cloudy skies, more than 60 community members attended the opening ceremony, which included speeches by Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden; Jeff Slack, Programs and Marketing Manager for the Whistler Museum (on behalf of Sarah Drewery, Curator and Executive Director of the Whistler Museum); Nanaimo RCMP Superintendent Norm McPhail; and Florence’s husband, Andy Petersen. Outdoor displays including story panels about Petersen and an artifact from the Whistler Museum – Whistler’s first chairlift – were unveiled to commemorate the park.
“Florence Petersen was a wonderful woman and I feel very privileged that I had the chance to get to know her through the Whistler Museum,” said Slack. “In founding the Whistler Museum, Florence did a great service for this community and just as she ensured that the memories of Whistler would always be treasured, we in turn will always treasure her memory.”
Petersen was known throughout the valley as a Whistler pioneer. Petersen first came to Whistler as a young woman in 1955 and lived in Whistler full-time starting in 1983. Petersen was an accomplished author and historian and was the founder of the Whistler Museum and Archives.
Following her retirement from teaching, Petersen worked as the district marriage commissioner. She performed ceremonies for more than 1,000 weddings and is fondly remembered by many couples in the area.
Petersen was honoured by the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) with the Freedom of the Municipality on June 4, 2012. This is the highest honour a municipality can bestow, and Petersen was one of only three female recipients of this award.
Petersen passed away on August 28, 2012. “Florence Petersen was a lovely person and her contributions to our community were numerous. Citizen of the year in 1986, and the recipient of Canada's 125th Anniversary Commemorative Medal, Florence gave much of her free time — and considerable skills — to developing Whistler’s social infrastructure,” said Wilhelm-Morden. “This park dedication is one way that we can honour Florence’s devotion and significant contributions to our community.”
In honour of Petersen, Whistler’s council endorsed the naming of the municipal open space adjacent to the Whistler Museum as Florence Peterson Park in January 2013.
The RMOW’s parks planning department had the site surveyed in April and, following park design, construction of Florence Petersen Park began at the end of May.
The project included regrading the land to create lawn and picnic table areas, as well as an accessible route to the adjacent forested park to the north. The work also involved the creation of outdoor displays, such as story panels on Petersen and the chairlift artifact. The park is located off Main Street behind the Whistler Museum and the Whistler Public Library.