CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Several Coastal Bend families find hope, serenity, and peace at the Nueces County Victims Memorial Garden at Oleander Point remembering their loved ones.
That serenity was threatened recently when some of those families said the City of Corpus Christi's Parks & Recreation Department informed organizers that recently erected angel statues would need to be removed because they did not go through appropriate channels for approval.
The park itself is on public land and previously had been approved, and only a flagpole and lights were on the property with the plaques commemorating victims.
Several families and their loved ones are represented in the garden, including CCPD Ofc. Alan McCollum, who was killed by a drunk driver in January.
"Here at this memory garden it represents our faith -- our Christianity," said his widow Michelle McCollum. "Alan was a strong Christian, he walked in his Christian ways, in his Christian walk.”
Crystal Rice lost her husband in July, and said the garden is an important tool to help her and her daughter remember who her husband was.
"We just really kinda wanted something to have (a) memory of him here, to have my daughter come here and you know, reminisce on times,” she said.
Parks & Recreation Interim Director Tracy Cantu said the city respects the memorial and understands what it means to the community, but also said certain elements added to the garden must be approved by the city.
"What we have in place with our agreement, is that the elements in the garden are designed, they go through an approval process, they go through appropriate permitting, to make sure they are safe. because this is a public space,” she said.
Nueces County Victims Memorial Garden Vice President George Fennema said he submitted the statues for approval, but was told something different.
"So when they came back and said we are gonna approve the flagpole and the lights, but not the angels," he said. "It was like 'OK, that's fine, just give me a reason why.' Their answer was that they got a couple calls about them.”
Nueces County District Attorney Mark Gonzalez said he's reached out to city manager Peter Zanoni, asking for the statues to be left alone.
The city’s Park and Recreation department said the statues will stay up but still need to go through an approval process.