Statement from Westerly Library and Wilcox Park
On August 2, 2020 the Memorial and Library Association Board of Trustees cast two votes regarding the existence of the Cristoforo Columbus statue in Wilcox Park. After consultation with the Town of Westerly concerning ownership of the statue it was agreed that the Memorial and Library Association take ownership, subject to an affirmative vote by the Town Council, which occurred on Monday, August 31, 2020. The Trustees then voted that the statue, an exemplary example of local artisan craftsmanship and specimen of Westerly Granite, would remain in public trust at its current location within the park.
After vandalism attempts, with careful consideration by the Board members, organization and Town Officials, a decision was made on how to proceed securing this historic monument. New cameras were installed and connected directly to the Westerly Police Department. Step-up lighting was also installed for better nighttime visibility. The final stage of this undertaking includes the installation of a protective, gated enclosure. Work is expected to begin the week of July 19, 2021.
Christopher Columbus Statue
The board of trustees of the Westerly Library Association met on Wednesday, August 26 and cast two votes regarding the statue of Cristoforo Columbus in Wilcox Park. First, the board voted to accept ownership of the statue, a community icon crafted by local artisans carved from blue Westerly granite by the Coduri Granite Company in town. The board took this step to clarify whether the Library, or the Town of Westerly, was the owner of the statue. After informal consultation with the Town, both parties agreed that the Library would take ownership, subject to an affirmative vote by the Town Council which occurred on Monday, August 31, 2020.
Secondly, the board voted to maintain the statue at its current location and to add interpretative signage to the display. The signage will provide context for Columbus’ role in history, and also describe the role of the statue itself in the history of the town. A group of community members began a dialogue about the statue in late June and will continue to work on the project going forward. The statue has been in the park since 1949.
Vandalism in Wilcox Park
Thursday morning’s (Aug 20) incident in Wilcox Park is troubling and disappointing. Questions about an historic community asset like the Columbus statue should be addressed with thoughtful, respectful dialogue- not with vandalism on private property by out-of-towners in the middle of the night. We want to thank the Westerly Police Department for their diligence and promptness in addressing this situation. We look forward to arriving at a conclusion to this issue through a respectful process and thank the community for their support.
Statement to the Public
Westerly Library and Wilcox Park (Memorial and Library Association) is a private non-profit organization that upholds the principles of the First Amendment. We respect everyone’s right to free speech, assembly and religion and do not engage in, nor tolerate, any form of discrimination. At the same time, however, we will protect the rights of everyone to enjoy the park, and the Library, freely and without intrusion or harassment.
Recently, we were made aware of a complaint from a community member alleging discrimination based upon a physical disability and religious beliefs. This complaint is groundless.
The Association consistently applies all procedures and policies equally with respect to all visitors on our property. Our policy information can be located on our website here: https://westerlylibrary.org/policies-and-plans
As a private non-profit organization, we remain open for the public to enjoy and are true to our mission of strengthening the community and enriching lives through access to literature, information, technology, nature and the arts.