Elbow's Community Park & Urban Orchard
A Visitors Guide to Elbow’s Community Orchard and Park
In the middle of Elbow is a beautiful and unique park. It’s an interesting attraction that you might not expect, but shouldn’t miss! This peaceful park was developed to provide fruit for local residents - but it has grown to be so much more! The lovely 5 acre park is located on Aaro avenue on the lake side of the railroad tracks. You can park along Aaro Avenue near the Urban Orchard sign or in the parking area near the playground structure (access from Elevator Road) on the other side of the park.
In 1998 the Urban Orchard in Elbow began with a reclamation project, filling in an abandoned water reservoir and well, then taming a wild piece of land covered with rocks and weeds. At every step along the way there were volunteers who organized, fundraised and made the project happen. It’s exciting to see how far it’s come from humble beginnings. In addition to the beautiful trees, a meandering walking path, bird houses and identification labels for the trees have been added. The library has installed a story board to be enjoyed along the main path. The tall decorative bird house is a Purple Martin house. More recently more tender fruit trees such as Apricot, Pear, Plum and Apple were planted. There are benches throughout the park to rest and de-stress in a peaceful place.
In 2012 a Peace Garden and a playground were added. Take the path to the South side of the park to see the memorial stones that have been laid to commemorate Canadian veterans in honour of their sacrifice and service and to view the stunning art installation by Canadian sculptor Joe Fafard. His masterpiece, the Peace Tower is a must see. The large playground area features a variety of play structures including a rock climbing wall and adult fitness equipment all surrounded by a ‘soft fall’ safety product. Throughout the park you’ll appreciate the beautiful song birds in the trees.
In 2017 the Village of Elbow constructed a lovely gazebo on the North East corner of the site. So why not pick up a picnic lunch from a local restaurant and enjoy it in the gazebo? Let the kids burn some energy on the playground or stroll the winding pathways. There might even be some berries ready for picking! There’s so much to see and enjoy at this Community park - Elbow’s beautiful Orchard!
History of the Elbow Urban Orchard – Part I
by Valerie Hundeby (Chairperson of the original committee)
The idea to develop Elbow’s Urban Orchard (Community Park) began in 1998. Five people with a love of trees in common rallied the community around the concept of developing a beautiful and purposeful green space for our town. Bob and Ann Widdup, Jim and Ruth Wankel and I formed the committee to initiate the project with big dreams!
The PFRA (Federal Gov’t agency) had a new program called ‘Urban Orchard’ providing prairie hardy fruit trees and shrubs for the development of an Orchard for a Community. The 5 of us met to discuss the idea. There was lots of enthusiasm from these ‘tree lovers’, but the size of the project was daunting. We had two locations in mind with our first choice being the former lagoon site, West of the railroad and South of the road leading to Elbow Harbour. This flat, undeveloped property had been regularly hayed which controlled weed growth. It
had great access and was an ideal location for an Orchard. The 5 of us decided that if the Village consented to an Orchard on their property and if we could get some funding, we would pursue it.
Don Maxwell, Mayor at the time, suggested applying for a community development grant through his employer, Interprovincial Pipelines (now Enbridge). The committee put our vision on paper with plans for drip irrigation, plastic mulch (PFRA requirement) and fruit trees to purchase. We were thrilled to be approved for $5,000 for the Orchard development. The grant was to be matched, but we could use volunteer labour at a nominal rate for our contribution. Pictures were published in the Outlook Newspaper with IPL officials presenting the cheque to Deputy Mayor, John Alderman, as the Village would be the owners of the orchard. With news of the grant, the council finalized what land they would allocate for the orchard. John Alderman suggested that the Orchard could be developed on Parcel A, if the Orchard Committee filled in the Village’s abandoned water reservoir on the property. John had been a mine safety engineer and always had a careful eye looking for the safety hazards in the village. The steep banks of the abandoned water reservoir that continued to hold water at the bottom was what he had identified as one of these potential hazards. Rightly so! The reservoir had originally been built to provide a backup water source for the Village of Elbow should the lake intake not be available for any reason.
Years later, a major upgrade to Elbow’s water plant and intake meant the reservoir was no longer needed and it was abandoned. John’s cost estimation to fill the reservoir was approximately half of the grant. In addition to the reservoir, Parcel A was a very rough, weedy and rocky area. There was also an old well on the property that needed to be filled. With this challenging news, our committee met again to discuss if it was still possible to proceed with only ½ the grant and twice the work in this location. We reworked the plan reducing the number of fruit trees we had planned to buy. The budget was now: $2,500 reclamation of the site; $2,500 for orchard development supplies; $7,000 volunteer labour and donated equipment for a total $12,000. In spite of the growing size of the project our committee of 5 agreed to proceed. This was the start of many evening Urban Orchard committee meetings!
Throughout the summer of 1998 site reclamation was underway. Filling the reservoir and well was a bigger project than anticipated and John Alderman suggested that contouring the site enough to remove the steep banks would suffice so it would no longer be a danger to the public. Local contractor Bert Bramble donated many hours of his labour to the project and we were fortunate to have as much reclamation done as there is.
Budget revised again to: Reclamation $3,000; orchard supplies $2,000. The Orchard Committee staked out a winding path according to our plans and Bert did the earth work for that as well. We added crusher dust on top of plastic to finish the multi season walking path. The design intention was to connect the new beginnings of Sarah’s Cove to the rest of Elbow with this walking trail through the orchard from Aaro Avenue to Elevator Road.
Fast growing, hardy trees were planned for the North and West sides to protect the orchard from prevailing winds. Meanwhile volunteers were working the land where the trees would be planted. The Committee organized work bees regularly on Saturday mornings to pick the rocks and pull stubborn weeds. Motivation came from envisioning an orchard growing there but It was a challenge when there was nothing but rocks and weeds!
Fall 1998, the Orchard Committee measured the site, tallied the planting numbers for each tree variety, distance between rows, number of feet of plastic mulch required and researched irrigation suppliers. Under the latest budget revision some trees would now have to be planted without benefit of irrigation. The tree order was placed through PFRA, TREEmendous & SaskPower; plastic mulch and irrigation pipe and fittings were ordered.
The next Spring the ground was worked one last time, the committee gathered the supplies from Indian Head and Saskatoon. Final measurements were taken and stakes pounded in the ground. We laid out the irrigation lines and built the system with connectors. John Alderman made arrangements to connect to the Village water supply. Larry and I picked up the tree planter from the PFRA and instructions for use. The seedlings arrived and the Orchard Committee organized a big work bee for planting day on June 5, 1999. We had a great turn out of about 25 people including some kids from Loreburn Central school that the committee had asked to help. A tractor pulled the planter with two volunteers seated on it very low to the ground. They alternatively put seedlings in the furrow cut by the machine. The planter then closed the furrow, covered the trees with plastic mulch from the huge roll of plastic and buried the edges of the plastic with dirt to keep it in place. More volunteers followed behind who cut a small hole in the plastic to pull the trees through and punch a hole in the irrigation line inserting an emitter beside each tree. Others were digging in trees with shovels and hauling water. Everyone had a job and the weather cooperated.
After the Spring rains in 2000, the number of weeds was overwhelming! However, most of the trees made it through the winter and the new growth inspired volunteers at the on-going work bees. Volunteers outside of our commiittee included Gwen Barschel, Bob Hundeby, Larry Hundeby, Burrel Fiske, Sylvia and Henry Harms, Marg & Ross Willis, Jean and John Alderman and Father S. Riplinger (who tried to convince us quack grass roots were good to eat!) Bill Boyle, Don Maxwell and Harry Daniluk all volunteered to cultivate the tree rows with their equipment numerous times. The cultivators had to stay back from the plastic mulch for fear of catching and ripping it out so there was always a row of weeds that required hand picking on either side of each row. It was decided that mowers could get closer so to reduce maintenance, grass seed was purchased and planted late fall 2001. Members of the Committee donated numerous trees and shrubs over those first years that were also planted.
Now the trees needed time to grow and perhaps with time, more tender fruit trees could be planted within this protective framework. Larry and I accepted jobs in Hawaii and moved May of 2005. Widdups and Wankels advancing age changed their situations as well, both selling their homes and moving for health care reasons. The beginnings of Elbow’s Urban Orchard would grow and wait until it caught the interest of the next tree lovers.
History of the Urban Orchard Part II
by Isabella and Joe Parent – Sept 2016
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 neglected and was crying for attention.
We recognized that a lot of good work had been done but some current work was needed. It was a pleasant surprise to us that as we started working other volunteers came along side to contribute their time and energy. Amazingly since that time a group of over 30 people found satisfaction in contributing in this way to the community.
The site is approximately 5 acres and many hours went into developing this very labour intensive project. We owe a great deal of gratitude to the whole industrious group who persevered in changing the landscape and setting the stage for future developments. We know the entire development did not occur in one day and it may be that later on the interest waned but the important work was done.
The following is a list of trees and shrubs that were planted in the first phase of the orchard development: Lilac, Chokecherry, Hawthorne, Maple, Pine, Spruce, Saskatoons, Apple, Pin Cherry, Swedish Aspen, Buffalo Berry, Sandcherry, Pontentilla, Mugo Pine, Russian Olive, Nanking Cherry, Hedge Rose, Green Ash, Sea Buckthorn, Red Osier Dogwood and Poplars.
Since that time, 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. Birdhouses were erected including a very elaborate Purple Martin house as well as tree species identification tags mounted on cedar boards. The Village Council continues to be very supportive and the majority of the mowing and whipper snipping is done by their summer student.
In 2011 we obtained and planted White Spruce, Siberian Crab, Scots Pine, Red Elder, Paper Birch, Green Ash, Acute Willow and Sandcherry. Trees that were donated and planted include Burr Oak, 3 varieties of Apple, Weeping Flowering Crab, Plum, Evans Cherry and Blackberry. In 2015 we purchased and planted Westcott Apricot, Early Gold Pear, Honeyberry Hascap and Amur Maple.
As a reminder to Elbow’s citizens of this important development and as an ongoing visual memento, the “Friends of the Orchard” have erected signs to designate the main path as “J. Alderman Lane”.
History of the Urban Orchard - Part III
Playground and Canadian Veterans Memorial
The trees planted in the Orchard continued to grow, making it more desirable for people to spend time there. In 2011 a Committee was established by the Village Council to create a new playground in Elbow. Committee members were: Sarah Wilm, Grace McTavish, Carol Patterson, Joe Parent, Gerald Fiske, Linda Kennedy, Anne Wilson, Dave Cross and Doug Wankel.
The Village received a ‘Helping Hands’ award which amounted to 50% of the funding needed to design and construct the new community playground, with the help of the non-profit organization called “Let Them Be Kids”. Working with this organization, the committee first planned what the playground would look like, consulting with children at the local school to find out what kind of play equipment they would like to play on. The plan was to create a space where people can come together and be active including adults. The project was officially announced in October at the Village’s annual meeting. A little money came in but fundraising didn’t begin in earnest until the new year. At that time, the Village learned it had been approved for a ‘Saskatchewan In Motion’ community pledge challenge, which was determined by online voting. Sk in Motion donated $10,000 towards the playground, presented to town administrator, Yvonne Jess at the Sk Urban Municipalities Assoc. convention. TD Bank gifted $5,000 for a walking trail. That winter several other fundraising events were undertaken that were heartily supported by the community. As the funds rolled in, plans for the ‘build day’ came together.
On May 12, 2012 more than 320 people gathered to build the park, which is pretty impressive when the town’s population at the time was only 300! Some army cadets from Regina were bussed in to help the work crews and perform some community service. The playground equipment had been delivered earlier in the week, and as work progressed on Saturday, everything was completed by mid-afternoon! The playground features a variety of play structures including swings, slides and a mini rock-climbing wall. There’s also fitness equipment for adults, walking machines and stationary bicycles, all surrounded with a rubber mulch.
In addition to the playground, a walking trail was built, a tipi that was erected and unbelievably, a Peace Garden, several picnic table and benches were constructed as well! A circular cement structure had been poured earlier for the Peace Garden. This was surrounded by memorial stones, flagpoles and an art installation, all to commemorate Canadian veterans. Families could purchase memorial markers with their loved ones’ name engraved in honour of their service, to be included in the garden. The ‘Peace Tower’, created by esteemed Canadian sculptor Joe Fafard was erected, making a stunning centrepiece for the Peace Garden.
After the construction was completed, there was a program to bless the new construction with word and song. Celebration!!! Balloons were released, flags raised, the ribbon cut and kids pounced on the new playground. The project was a big success, ending with fireworks and a community barbeque. All this came together in only seven months! Congratulations to the organizing committee for enhancing this gathering place for friends and neighbours! We’re so proud of Elbow and it’s many fantastic volunteers!
In 2017 the Village of Elbow had a gazebo built on the site providing some lovely shade for picnics and other gatherings. There are commemorative plaques throughout the park acknowledging the generous donations to this project. The Community Orchard and Park continues to develop into a more beautiful attraction for Elbow, being enjoyed by many.