Elbow's Community Park & Urban Orchard

A history, complied by Isabella & Joe Parent – September 2016

The purpose of this document is to primarily provide a review of the orchard development and highlight the people of vision who created it.

At two major events that took place in this area in the recent past it became obvious to many people that there was no mention of the dedication and foresight of the persons who were instrumental in this project.  We hope that providing a written record we will all remember those early participants and celebrate their achievements.

We arrived in Elbow in October 2009 and because of our love of nature in general and in trees specifically we were drawn to the “orchard”.  Unfortunately the area had been badly neglected and was crying for attention.  We heard a rumour that the neglect was due to the fact that the originators did not want anyone to frequent the area.  In conversation with some of those early volunteers we determined that this was not true.  More likely the residence and village council had many other things occupying their time.  We were told that “The whole project was meant FOR the people, not to keep them away”.

Since we were not in Elbow at the time of the commencement of this development we contacted several persons who were involved.  We were pleased to be provided with many details pertaining to its origin.  It is our intent to capture in this document those details as accurately as possible.

It was almost 20 years ago that the village received a flyer from PFRA (Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration) promoting a new program.  The object was to establish a planting within an urban area to provide berries (and we assume other fruit) and nesting areas to develop bird habitat.  They called it an “Urban Orchard”.  PFRA offered to provide the trees and the village would provide everything else.  Obviously the concept was enthusiastically received by Mayor Don Maxwell, Councillor John Alderman and village administrator Val Hundeby.  Others such as Bob & Ann Widdup, Jim & Ruth Wankel became involved and subsequently a committee was formed and the process began.  Through their efforts a $ 5,000.00 grant was obtained from Interprovincial Pipelines (now Enbridge).  Other early volunteers include Sylvia & Henry Harms, Gwen Barschel, Bob Hundeby, Burrel Fiske, Bill Boyle, Don Holmes, Marg & Ross Willis, Harry Daniluk, Bert Bramble & Father S. Ripplinger.  Undoubtedly there were others who were involved at that time and we would be pleased to add their names to this paper.  We also understand many more hours were “donated” by contractors, village employees and others to get this wonderful project underway.

The current site comprising of approximately 5 acres was decided upon and much work was involved as this was a very rough, weedy and rocky area.  There was a deep pit which at one time held water for the CPR locomotive.  Another theory was that this pit held water for the village as a backup.  It was considered to be a hazard and although it was no longer needed there was water in it which could become a real problem.  Countless hours would be spent eliminating it.  There was also an unused old water well on this land and it was filled.

Because the “Sarah’s Cove” area was in the early stages of developing the location chosen was very practical due to its now central location.  The plan for the Orchard included a walking path from Aaro Avenue to the Elevator Road and it was felt that a path continuing across the railway track to downtown would help to unify the new area and the “original” village (truth is that we still hear comments that “Sarah’s Cove” is not really Elbow).

To develop the orchard there was a budget of $ 12,000.00 which would include the value of donated labour and equipment.  The only cash was the $ 5,000.00 grant.  In addition to the many hours contributed by the volunteers arrangements were made with Loreburn School and some of the students became involved in the work as a fundraiser for the school.

After the pit was filled, the rocks were removed.  The well was eliminated, the land was prepared for the tree planting and grass seeded.  We have a paper that indicated that a work plan meeting was held on May 29, 1999.  The four areas shown are Planting, Irrigation, Mulching, and Grass Seeding.  Trees were obtained from PFRA (Indian Head); TREEmendous & SaskPower (Shand Power Station) & North Battleford.  The main tree planting commenced June 5, 1999.

We do not know how many hours went into this very labour intensive project and we presume that after the initial thrust there continued to be people who added to the cause.  Birdhouses were erected (including a very elaborate Purple Martin house) as well as the tree species identifications tags mounted on cedar boards.  We owe a great deal of gratitude to John Alderman and the whole industrious group who persevered in changing the landscape and setting the stage for future developments.  We do know that the entire development did not occur in one day it may be that later on the interest waned but the important work was done.  A question that we have was whether there was ever recognition of this important development before we arrived.

The following is a list of trees & shrubs that were in the orchard when the current volunteers became involved:  Lilac, Chokecherry, Hawthorne, Maple, Pine, Spruce, Saskatoon, Apple, Pin Cherry, Swedish Aspen, Buffalo Berry, Sandcherry, Potentillia, Mugo Pine, Russian Olive, Nanking Cherry, Poplar, Hedge Rose, Green Ash, Sea Buckthorn, Red Osier Dogwood.

As stated in the second paragraph we recognized that a lot of good work had been done and some current work was needed.  It was a pleasant surprise to us that as we started working volunteers came to contribute their time and energy.  Amazingly since that time a group of over 30 people have contributed to the ongoing maintenance and additional tree planting etc.  It appears to us that many generous people find satisfaction in doing their thing to contribute to this community.

We have purchased and applied wood mulch, pruned all the trees, added irrigation lines and generally added to this “GEM” located in the centre of Elbow.  The village council continues to be very supportive and the majority of the mowing & whipper snipping is done by a summer worker.

In 2011 we obtained and planted White Spruce, Siberian Crab, Scots Pine, Red Elder, Paper Birch, Green Ash, Acute Willow and Sandcherry.  Trees donated and planted include Burr Oak, 3 varieties of Apple, Weeping Flowering Crab, Plum, Evans Cherry & Blackberry.  In 2015 we purchased and planted Westcott Apricot, Early Gold Pear, Honeyberry Hascap & Amur Maple.

As a reminder to the citizens of Elbow of this important development and of the people involved at this time this brief write up was prepared.  As an ongoing visual memento the “Friends of the Orchard” proposed that the main path be designated as “J Alderman Lane”.  The signs have been erected.