After being bulldozed in 2018 to make way for a potential site expansion, a Fort Calgary garden will return this spring, albeit with a different look.
The garden, located at the Fort Calgary National Historic Site, will make its return in late April with a groundbreaking ceremony on Earth Day (April 22).
According to Fort Calgary president Jennifer Thompson, the previous garden has been there for 15 years. It wasn’t your typical community garden with different plots tended to by separate members, but it was a place that harvested food for use in the community.
Thompson said it was both award-winning and revered. It was slated for removal to make way for the potential expansion of Fort Calgary’s Interpretive Centre. That expansion didn’t happen.
“The garden was abruptly removed and bulldozed without any real community consultation,” Thompson said.
“So, it was quite a bit a bit of a shock, being that that was a place that people came to come together and really do good and really get involved in helping the community out.”
Thompson, who took over as Fort Calgary president back in February, came in with a mandate of reconciliation. Part of that, she said, is rebuilding and repairing relationships damaged by the garden’s removal.
Along with that, the new garden is going to take a decolonized approach; reconciliation will play a larger role in the design and execution of the garden area.
“It’s really important to just rebuild those relationships and repair those relationships that once were part of Fort Calgary,” she said.
The garden is situated on the Fort Calgary site, near the Riverwalk pathway. They hope it will be inviting and open to passersby.
Commitment to Indigenous peoples
Lindsie Bruns, Fort Calgary’s director of programming and the community garden lead, said for the past five years, the garden area has been empty.
While it was on a 900 square-metre square parcel before, the new design will be circular. There will also be raised beds for the area.
“It’ll look a little bit different than how it did in the past, but we’re still planning to grow lots of foods for local charities. We’re also hoping to incorporate some Indigenous plants and Indigenous ways of knowing and we’re going to offer programming to that effect,” Bruns said.
“It’s going to be a combination of a historic vegetable garden, as well as a really healing space.”
The circle is an important symbol in Indigenous culture, symbolizing interdependence of all forms of life. Having the garden as a circle was an important part of the design, Bruns said.
“We really wanted to honour the people that have lived here for 1000s of years; especially right at this spot where the garden is – we’re at the confluence of the Bow and Elbow rivers. That site has been important for 1000s of years.”
Bruns said Fort Calgary is currently a colonial site. They want to tell the story of all the people that have lived here over time, along with the history of the Northwest Mounted Police. They hope to do more of that through the new garden.
Thompson said the garden represents a rejuvenation of the area. It’s a change that will evolve over time.
“We don’t presume that we’ve got it right today,” she said.
“It will evolve, and we want it to evolve. It’s a living thing, so we want to see where it goes. We want to be open to new opportunities and new perspectives on how that garden will grow.”