Way back in 1989, Peterborough’s Roundtable on the Environment identified “the need for an environmental voice in the community,” and Peterborough GreenUP came into being three years later.
Now, 25 years on, that environmental voice is about to become much louder as the not-for-profit organization embarks on an ambitious five-year, $440,000 fundraising plan in support of “critical” infrastructure improvements in Ecology Park.
GreenUP’s Ecology Park is a five-acre community park located off Ashburnham Road near Beavermead Park in Peterborough. Staffed by GreenUP from May to October but open year round, it currently hosts display gardens and naturalized areas, a native plant nursery, children’s programs, a garden market, skill-building workshops, and hands-on displays.
On Thursday (March 16), GreenUP staff, board members, and volunteers gathered at Ecology Park to share details of the planned improvements, which have been divided into seven phases as follows:
- Phase 1 – rebuilding of the existing education shelter ($50,000)
- Phase 2 – reconstruction of the education and market program sheds ($50,000)
- Phase 3 – integration of a sustainable irrigation system ($40,000)
- Phase 4 – development of a natural playscape for children ($25,000)
- Phase 5 – development of accessible pathways ($25,000)
- Phase 6 – installation of solar panels and a “green” roof on the education shelter ($45,000)
- Phase 7 – construction of a nursery greenhouse ($220,000)
“Twenty-five years is a long time to keep a public park sustainable and up to date in terms of what’s happening with climate change,” explained Marcy Adzich, the manager of Ecology Park and GreenUP’s landscape programs.
“We’re really seeing that we need to do some things and that needs to happen now. It’s action time: time for climate change action, time for environmental education. We’re a bit nervous about it (the fundraising goal) but over 25 years we’ve built so many strong partnerships in the community — the City of Peterborough, the Health Unit, Peterborough Field Naturalists, Trent University. It (Ecology Park) is not just GreenUP’s. It belongs to the community.
“Ecology Park as an ecological gem. It’s something that’s very rare; something very precious, beautiful and also important. To try to rebuild it and replicate it somewhere else would take decades to do. It’s growing in its terms of its legacy with this community. People can come here and experience a special place that doesn’t always exist in urban areas.”
Earlier, during the formal announcement of the campaign, GreenUP executive director Brianna Salmon admitted the phase dollar goals “are really significant”, but echoed Adzich’s conviction that the community support needed is present.
“Over the course of the next five years, our goal is to make critical repairs to the infrastructure, to remove hazards, and to ensure continued programming remains a possibility,” Salmon said. “And then improve the performance and sustainability of our programs and our operations so we’re able to do things a little bit better, to implement a few key projects that will allow our programs to grow and flourish into the future.”
A key player in Ecology Park’s refurbishment is The Endeavour Centre (910 High Street, Peterborough 705-868-5328). A leading designer and builder of “green” buildings, its staff, led by executive director Chris Magwood, has designed and will construct the new structures as well as retrofit existing ones. Through the partnership, according to Magwood, the goals of The Endeavour Centre and GreenUP “align well.”
“All the building we do, we do with students, so we train people on-the-job. Ecology Park has a whole mission around education as well, so it’s a really nice fit. We’re going to be educating builders to make buildings that will help educate kids.”
The education value of Ecology Park was stressed more than once Thursday, with Salmon noting more than 10,000 children “have learned about plants and animals and the relationships that define our ecosystems in a way that’s immersive and hands-on and fun.”
Adzich took that a step further, terming Ecology Park “a living laboratory — it’s part of our natural heritage system; it’s a horticultural research site, a busy and active transportation thruway, an outdoor classroom and, above all, an important urban sanctuary.”
“To my knowledge, we’re doing something very unique here,” added Adzich.
“In the nursery, we have more than 3,000 trees and plants. It’s managed through citizen surveillance. We have decided not to put up fences or cages or security systems. It’s a leap of faith but it shows that the foundation of GreenUP is building community and that comes with trust.
“Most people that come here to look at our nursery are baffled as to why we don’t have a hi-tech security system. This is their park and they watch it. It’s a wonderful sense of ownership. I’ve come here in the evening and people have asked who I am and what the heck am I doing here. People come here and they protect it and they own it.”
With its stated mission to inspire and empower environmentally and healthy action in our community, Peterborough GreenUP started operations in 1992 and was incorporated three years later. In 1996, when the provincial government cut its funding, GreenUP faced a major challenge but redefined itself and benefited as a result in new funding from a diverse range of sources, including Peterborough Utilities and the City of Peterborough.
Many thousands of local residents have since participated in programs that cover energy efficiency, air quality, water quality and conservation, waste management, and landscape enhancement.
For more information about Peterborough GreenUP and Ecology Park programming, or to make a donation to the Ecology Park campaign, visit www.greenup.on.ca.