Nikkei Legacy Park Project
By Chuck Tasaka (former Greenwood resident)

Photo credit Chuck Tasaka

The names have changed since the 1990’s. This park was originally called Boundary Creek Park. The main purpose was to be used as a free overnight campsite and a rest stop for weary travelers. 

In 1997, the City of Greenwood was presented with a large, brass internment history plaque by members of the National Association of Japanese Canadians from Kamloops. Thus, the city councillors decided to have a ‘Name That Park’ contest in the local paper. The name Ohairi Park was selected on July 12, 1998. There was a dedication ceremony at the park commemorating the internment of the Japanese Canadians. In October of 1999, Ohairi Park was officially designated as a city park. There was also a memorial honouring Ken Hamanishi for all he had done as an ambassador for Greenwood, especially for the members of the Japanese Canadian community. Many Nikkei families remained in this city. The local Board of Trade took a stand after the war to protest against the ultimatum of the government, “Go East of the Rockies or Repatriate to Japan.” 

Fast-forward to 2014. Like most former Greenwood Nikkei residents, I didn’t know that this park was in existence. When I started writing a book on Greenwood in 2011, I was able to reconnect with the people in this city, especially with the volunteers at the Greenwood Museum. I had several book launches there, and they were very supportive of my project. I was directed to the park, and I realized that it needed some upgrading. I have visited many beautiful Japanese garden parks in small towns in B.C., namely ones on Mayne Island, Hope Memorial Friendship Park and Kohan Garden in New Denver. Fortunately, the Greenwood Museum volunteers came on board to support this restoration project. After several meetings with the City of Greenwood, they approved of the project. 

I have been very pleased with the generous donation from individuals and families across Canada and even a few in the U.S. We also received generous donations from the  National Association of Japanese Canadians  for $3500, the  Greenwood Improvement Society Boundary Heritage Credit Union , and the Good Samaritan Group who sold frozen pies and recycled pop/beer cans. Also, many donated “In Memory of Molly Fukui.”

When the project began, the Nikkei Legacy Park pavilion was already built but without walls. The wood flooring and partial walls were constructed by Son Ranch Timber Co. The family plaques and interpretive panels to describe the internment history of Greenwood are being produced by Signs49 under Cornel Hanson’s workmanship. To come are the graphics that will explain how Greenwood became the first internment centre for the Japanese Canadians. The monument for the twelve WWI Japanese Canadian vets who lived in Greenwood will be erected to honour these brave soldiers. Three of them were Military Medal recipients, Masumi Mitsui, Kiyoji Izuka and Yasuo Takashima. 

Due to the flooding in the spring each year, the original plan to plant sakura trees became impractical. Instead, donors receive a memorial plaque with a sakura blossom design and an inscription, “In Memory of …” . Loved ones donated $1000 towards this memorial.  In front of the pavilion, a concrete platform will be installed so that two Japanese lanterns will be placed along with the WWI monument thanks to the generous donations of $2000 each from the Isomura/Imai and the Stephen and Dianne Tasaka families.   

The name Ohairi Park has been changed to the Nikkei Legacy Park, suggested by the late Francis Nakagawa. I read in print many times Ohairi was spelled O’Hairi and joked that it could be mistaken for an Irish park! 

If you feel that this park will leave a lasting legacy for the Nikkei people, donations are still being gratefully accepted. We are still fundraising for the war memorial monument and panel, and landscaping is in progress.  Any past and present Greenwood residents or anyone wishing to remember a family can donate to have a memorial plaque on the wall. My wish is to bring back former residents to visit Greenwood more often with their grandchildren. The old movie, ‘Field of Dreams’ quote, “If you build it, they will come.”  

Cheques can be sent to the City of Greenwood, P.O. Box 129, Greenwood, B.C. V0H 1J0, Attention: Nikkei Legacy Park Project. Please also note on the memo line of the cheque, " Nikkei Legacy Park Project ."