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Indigenous society opens oasis downtown Maple Ridge

New urban garden to be a place of teaching and healing

A little oasis has opened up in the heart of downtown Maple Ridge.

On Friday, Aug. 12, the Fraser River Indigenous Society officially opened a new urban garden along Selkirk Avenue, in between the BC Emergency Health Services ambulance bay and a plaza.

Ginna Berg, the society’s executive director, explained the 2,600 square foot green space in the middle of the city, will be a teaching garden, a healing garden, and a place for the community to gather around.

Surrounding the garden is a short, wooden fence – giving the garden an open feeling – with sliding white doors and the organization’s name, Fraser River Indigenous Society, presiding over the main entrance to the garden

“It will be a little oasis in the downtown,” she said.

The garden, itself, does not have an official name yet, said Berg.

Berg explained, the project took about two years to complete, including fundraising, the design phase, and construction.

Travis Warren, with Pixels and Hammers, a design/build collaborative company that had the winning bid to design and construct the garden, explained the design was influenced by traditional Indigenous architecture found along the Pacific Northwest.

“That’s why you see certain types of angles, and suggestions and gestures in the landscape,” he said.

A children’s play structure in the garden contains a firefighter’s pole, a ladder, with a social space for children underneath it.

A large water feature sits near the sidewalk, on the northeast side of the garden, with a fountain and various plants growing inside the circular metal frame holding the water.

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The idea behind this feature, explained Warren is a regenerative landscape design which will contain its own micro-ecosystem.

“Essentially the plants have been put together so that they self compete, they self seed,” he said. And eventually the garden will be of its own making.

In the water there are plans for fish and molluscs. Floater plants already decorate the feature including upright water clovers.

Warren’s favourite element of the garden are the mirrors that have been placed at different heights around the space. The idea behind the mirrors is about self reflection for both adults and children.

It took Warren’s company a year to design and build the garden – with some setbacks including bad weather and vandalism.

The site, he said, has been breached about 25 times during that time, and they had all their tools and equipment stolen twice.

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And, just three days before the grand opening somebody stripped the garden of its irrigation equipment, that was all on a computerized micro-irrigation system.

In the pond they had to build a concrete sink to chain and lock the fountain to it.

And, he said, people have also been breaking into the garden late at night to re-garden.

“They literally, take plants, dig them up, and start doing planting design, doing sculptures,” he said. “Very strange.”

About 50 people gathered in the garden for the official ceremony opening the space.

Berg was expecting about 200 people to join them during the course of the day.

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Colleen Flanagan

About the Author: Colleen Flanagan

Colleen Flanagan is an award-winning multimedia journalist with more than 15 years experience in the industry.
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