By Brian Burton
In the midst of what seems like a continuous flow of unfortunate news coming out of Walkerton, a large group of citizens from Walkerton and surrounding communities are hard at work organizing a project to lift the spirits and restore the enthusiasm of this Southwestern Ontario town.
The idea for the “Walkerton Blooms” project originated in Stratford, ON. A number of local citizens in Stratford joined together, as a result of their common concern for struggle the people of Walkerton have gone through, and decided to create what they felt would represent a special tribute to the people of Walkerton — a tribute in the form of a spectacular and permanent garden.
At first, the planned garden could not have been termed spectacular. The originator of the idea, David de Weerdt, thought he might visit Walkerton with a few friends and plant a modest three by three metre plot. But like many modest garden plans, Mr. de Weerdt’s idea took off, as one of the volunteers phrased it —“like a weed on steroids.” Soon, citizens from six other communities (Blyth, Goderich, Meaford, Mitchell, St. Mary’s (West Perth) and Woodstock) in the nearby area joined in the collective effort.
The plan for the Walkerton Heritage Water Garden, (as it is now officially called), is much more elaborate than Mr. de Weerdt originally envisioned — and a lot larger. The Walkerton Heritage Water Garden will occupy more than two acres of high-profile public land on the main street of Walkerton.
Volunteers from Walkerton, Stratford and the other surrounding five other communities are now working together, in a collective effort through their local “Communities in Bloom” committees. Each town will sponsor a flowerbed within the garden. The volunteers will all be showing up “en masse” this spring to turn a virgin piece of land into a lasting memorial and tribute to Walkerton’s incredible strength in the face of adversity.
One of the garden’s main features will be a Memorial Fountain. Its designer, Harry Jongerden, head gardener at the Stratford Festival, says he drew his inspiration from the biblical story of the Israelites wandering in the desert without water. Walkerton’s Memorial Fountain will take the form of a massive rock formation, cracked open, with water pouring out.
Mr. Jongerden, who feels very strongly about the value and significance of the project, reports that the Memorial Fountain is intended to serve as a powerful symbol of the renewal of life.
Mr. de Weerdt estimates the current cost of what originally began as a modest three by three metre plot to be close to $200,000. The response to his idea has been so overwhelming that he is juggling the offers of over 35 companies to provide material and skilled labour for the garden’s construction.
Jim Bolden, co-chair of the Walkerton project is overwhelmed by the response and generosity of local citizens so far. “I can’t believe these people are coming from all over and giving us their time and energy to plan and build this garden,” he enthuses.
Funds are still needed, however to construct the Memorial Fountain, says Mr. de Weerdt. “We need at least $75,000 more to do proper justice to the fountain. Any additional funds we can raise will be directed towards long-term maintenance for the garden,” he explains.
Mr. De Weerdt suggests that anyone interested in donating money can do so by sending a cheque, (tax receipts are available) to Walkerton Blooms, c/o City of Stratford, Stratford, Ont., N5A 6W1. Additional information regarding donations and offers of volunteer help can also be viewed on their web site, www.walkertonblooms.com.
Phone inquiries can be directed to Harry Jongerden at the Stratford Festival, 519-271-4040, ext. 2335. For further information regarding Communities in Bloom, contact Raymond Carrière at 514-6948871.
Brian Burton is responsible for development of Corporate Partnerships for Communities in Bloom.
For more information about Communities In Bloom, please click here.