Two master gardeners want to ensure the space around the Niagara-on-the-Lake Community Centre is as beautiful as can be.
Betty Knight and Joanne Young proposed a joint initiative with the town to “see best practices come into play in the development of the green spaces around the community centre,” Young said at council’s March 21 committee of the whole meeting.
“What we are speaking to now is an environmentally sustainable, accessible, multi-use, multi-generational green space designed for, and with an awareness of, all abilities,” she said.
Knight said the duo did not want to suggest any immediate designs for the space.
“Our ask today is to encourage the town to lead a process to engage all interested partners in developing a mini-master plan for the community centre and to invite talented, visionary people to the table to work collaboratively through the process,” Knight said.
The proposal, which was unanimously supported by councillors, most likely would need to be developed as part of the recreational master plan, she said, but the creation of that document is not yet under way, parks and recreation manager Kevin Turcotte noted.
Knight said she would be ready to engage in creative fundraising to support the garden and the inclusion of a memorial garden could help defray some costs.
It would be a community-building project, she said, and encouraged the municipality to embrace NOTL’s reputation for having “beautiful gardens.”
Young, who is The Lake Report’s gardening columnist, provided some examples of how the space could be developed.
The intent of the garden would be to “enhance the well-being of its users by allowing them to engage in various exercises throughout that space,” she said.
“Over the last two years we’ve learned how important being outdoors is and how it affects your mental health,” she added.
Young said one of the features could be an Indigenous garden.
“To give proper land acknowledgement, recognizing and respecting Indigineous Peoples as the traditional stewards of this land,” she said.
Young also recommended a pollinator garden and a sensory garden designed to appeal to all five senses.
A new concept called a rain garden, a depression in the ground filled with plants and shrubs where rainwater can temporarily be held before draining into the soil, was also suggested.
“This garden can be an educational tool for the public to learn about the importance of capturing rainwater,” she said.
The idea of the garden as a tool for education was mentioned frequently by Young, who also recommended a literacy garden and making the space available for schools and various groups to rent out for classes.
There’ll be “educational opportunities for all ages through the use of signage, possible seminars and workshops that would teach people about sustainable gardening and encourage them to do likewise in their own gardens,” she said.
Knight reminded councillors they previously declared 2022 the year of the garden and urged that the concept garden be considered for creation this year.
“This concept garden could be a capstone project. It could be a beautiful unfurling of a flag as we celebrate the opening of society and the year of the garden,” Knight said.
The idea has support from the Niagara-on-the-Lake Public Library, and the town’s wellness and diversity committees, she said.
Extensive collaboration should be sought between all facets of operations at the community centre, from the gym to the cafe to the daycare, to ensure the most is made of the space, Knight said.
Council referred the proposal to town staff for a report.