The wine label and the City have apologized.
On park benches across the city, commemorative plaques memorialize loved ones. For the friends of local performer Dennis Frey, who passed away in 2012, his memorial plaque means a great deal. The plaque was funded by Eva HD with money she won from the 2015 Montreal Poetry Prize. (Disclosure: Eva has written articles for Torontoist.) After a six-month process, the plaque was installed in April 2016, and provided a way for Frey’s Torontonian friends to celebrate the man they knew.
On Thursday night, however, the plaque was no longer there. In its place was a plaque for Dreaming Tree, a California-based wine label co-owned by musician Dave Matthews.
Frey’s friends were not pleased.
While the details are still up in the air, sometime after July 5 a work order to repair a bench or benches at Trinity Bellwood Park was placed at the City of Toronto.
A slat from Dennis Frey’s bench was removed, presumably for repair, and it was accidentally replaced with one for Dreaming Tree wine.
Frey’s commemorative plaque was later found at a City of Toronto carpenter’s shop, and it has since been re-installed.
The City of Toronto apologized for the error. In an email to Torontoist, Parks supervisor Peter White writes, “We regret that this error was made.” He added that they have not heard of this type of issue happening in the past, and that “we will take the necessary steps to ensure this type of error is not repeated.”
Dreaming Tree wine saw its plaques installed when Dave Matthews performed in Toronto in last summer. He co-owns a wine label that devotes a page of its website to sustainability. The company donated funds to plant 29 trees in Trinity Bellwoods to help offset the 80 that have been ravaged by the emerald ash borer, an insect that is native to eastern Asia and deadly to North American trees. The company received three plaques for its contribution, two on park benches and one on a rock. Since the error was made last week Dreaming Tree has apologized and pledged to plant an additional tree in Frey’s honour.
On Facebook, Eva HD responded to Dreaming Tree’s apology:
Hi, Dreaming Tree,
I very much appreciate the apology, although I continue to be a little confused as to the particulars of how a seemingly undamaged bench in a public park gets replaced by an an advertisement for alcohol without anybody knowing about it. Like many of my fellow Torontonians, I am admittedly unaccustomed to corporate advertising adorning City property, whether on the site of a desecrated memorial or otherwise, so the overall effect of this unfortunate, ahem, mix-up, has been jarring, to say the least. Your idea of planting a commemorative tree in memory of Dennis Frey is a lovely one, although I’m not positive how sanguine he would be about the association with your company, not to mention its dubious advertising practices. While I do not in any way look forward to seeing your corporate logo in public spaces in my city, I do eagerly anticipate further discussing all this memorial tree hilarity with you in the near future.
You can visit Dennis Frey’s bench on the southwest corner of the Trinity Bellwoods tennis courts. It is the one with his name, and not a Dreaming Tree wine label.