Between two convenience stores and across from an eye clinic in central Edmonton, a community garden comes to life.
The Wâposo-Wâti Community Park and Garden, located at 107th Avenue and 110th Street, is a partnership between Native Counseling Services of Alberta, the City of Edmonton and Alberta Retina Consultants.
With raised flowerbeds as well as ground plots, picnic tables, space for two tipis and a modest playground, Chad Bolster says the three previously vacant lots (Wâposo-Wâti is the cri for the rabbit’s den) have come a long way.
“The yard was full of grass and glass and concrete and there were two holes in the basement here,” says Bolster, who is a staff member at NSCA.
Bolster says they work with the Correctional Service of Canada to run a few healing lodges in Edmonton, and clients from the Stan Daniels Healing Center and the Buffalo Sage Wellness House regularly come in to help.
“It’s a chance for people to give back to the community, learn about food sovereignty, beautify the city and connect with the land,” says Bolster, who is also responsible for the kitchen at SDHC.
The city provided revitalization grants of about $10,000 to help with landscaping and garden infrastructure, Bolster says.
“You know, I’m choking a little bit thinking about all the work we’ve done in the last three years. It’s gone from a really big eyesore to a beautiful place,” Bolster says.
Active radio6:43The healing powers of gardening
You can see more of Wâposo-Wâti Community Garden on this week’s edition of Our Edmonton on Saturday at 10 a.m., Sunday at noon and Monday at 11 a.m. on CBC TV and CBC Gem.
Gina Tsigos, an eye technician with Alberta Retina Consultants who works across the garden, watched the transformation through her office window.
“It’s a wonderful way for the clinic to engage with the neighborhood with the community and to get that land used,” Tsigos said.
“Patients love it. We have patients all year round asking us questions about the garden, what’s going on, what people are planting and who’s involved, so that was really nice.”
Clinic doctors own the land and provide fencing and water. Tsigos and other clinic staff have a plot in the garden where last year they grew potatoes, tomatoes and a mix of flowers.
“Honestly, I’m proud. It was really nice to be involved,” Tsigos said.
Buffalo Sage Wellness House resident Verena Petruka planted peas, beans and carrots this year.
“I love being able to put my hands in the dirt and play in the dirt and put in an honest day’s work and make the community garden look presentable,” says Petruka.
“Before I arrived I had no self-confidence, no self-esteem and now I am a strong, independent woman.”
The garden has been a fundamental influence in her life and she passes on her horticultural know-how and welcomes others into the space like Ann Hardy.
“It feels so much like home from the start,” says Hardy, a member of the Edmonton Aboriginal Seniors Center who visited the park for the first time this week to plant potatoes.
“I needed to learn how to do that,” says Hardy, “it’s important for us as Aboriginal people to take back some of the traditional gardening.
“With our history, we missed some of our teachings, and here it’s the young people who come back and teach us the elders. It gives me so much hope for the future.”
Bolster says the future of Wâposo-Wâti includes expanding the playground and creating a crosswalk of reconciliation on 110th Street as well as hosting talks by seniors and special events for National Indigenous Peoples Day next month.
“The development potential is endless.”