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Communities in Bloom steps in to revamp Centennial gardens

Mon, 09/11/2017 - 10:31 -- Chris Cooke
planter of flowers

Anne Marie Gillis says Communities in Bloom will provide $5,000.00 to assist in developing therapeutic garden boxes at Sarnia’s Centennial Park. Gillis, who chairs the local Communities in Bloom says the self watering boxes will be installed to assist the Rotary Club of Sarnia Bluewaterland in getting what it paid for.

The Club is contributing $150,000.00 for the new playground and what is being called the Peace Garden.

However, in what Gillis describes as a “disconnect” between the City administration and the Club the garden fell short of expectations.

The Peace Garden bears little resemblance to what was originally proposed. Raised beds in wooden planters for those in wheel chairs were replaced with Owen Sound ledge rock and are so wide disabled people can’t reach the planting beds.

John Hus, whose wife suffers from Alzheimer’s disease and was a leading proponent of the therapeutic garden expressed disappointment. Hus had provided former Recreation Director Beth Gignac with photos and designs of a therapeutic garden in Guelph but the information was never passed along to current Recreation Director Rob Harwood.

Gillis met with Hus in late August to discuss options. She along with the City’s chief arborist Patti Ross will develop a plan for presentation to the Rotarians. Gillis says the “bump out pads” along the waterfront will be used for the planters that will be “visually beautiful, provide different texture, be self-watering and wheel chair accessible”.

Asked about the cost Gillis replied, “it won’t be much. The City has its own plant material and I’d like to bring in seniors to assist with the planting next spring”.

Gillis says she is excited about the possibilities. “I know exactly what is needed here … something different. Not a Peace Garden but a therapeutic healing garden”.

Gillis went on to say “gardens aren’t just gardens and people know the difference.”

She suggests part of the problem at Centennial centered on the transition between Gignac and Harwood. “Rob is an arenas guy and he is just learning about gardens and what was developed and what was supposed to be developed got lost in the transition”.

Gillis says bringing in Ross and Communities in Bloom will make a difference.

Communities in Bloom’s Backyard Lottery raised $21,000.00 this year and $17,000.00 last year. The organization has $45,000.00 and ticket sales for the next lottery will begin this fall.

Funds will be used for signage and planter boxes at Centennial and signage at Germain Park where the City has gardens and a greenhouse.

“When the judges came through the area this year they loved our gardens but said our signage stinks. We will correct that”.

Asked about completion of the Suncor Agora and boat ramps at Centennial Gillis says “the Agora is being well used, it is a flexible space and the sound system is amazing”.

She added, “The Dow People Place was static and old. The Agora was designed to be different … it is a place to come and visit”.

Asked about a covering Gillis says, “it is a work in progress, a gathering place and doesn’t need a cover”.

As for the boat ramps and the $11.7 million spent at the remediated park Gillis says, “This has been a multi phased project that included an additional $1.4 million for new sewers on Harbour Road. But as far as I’m concerned this is a fixed cost project and if more money is requested there better be a very good reason. Fixed costs are fixed costs”.

The City hasn’t provided a completion date for the boat ramps.

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