Edmonton’s Wâposo-Wâti Park and Community Garden is a hopping urban green space

Sandwiched between two convenience stores and across from an eye clinic in central Edmonton, a community garden is once again springing to life. 

The Wâposo-Wâti Park and Community Garden, located at 107th Avenue and 110th Street, is a partnership between Native Counselling Services of Alberta, the City of Edmonton and Alberta Retina Consultants. 

With raised flower beds as well as ground plots, picnic tables, space for two teepees and a modest playground, Chad Bolster says the three previously vacant lots (Wâposo-Wâti is Cree for rabbit’s den) have come a long way. 

“The yard was full of grass and glass and concrete and there were two basement holes here,” says Bolster, who is a staffer with NSCA.

Chad Bolster is a staffer with Native Counselling Services of Alberta, one of the partners involved in the Wâposo-Wâti Park and Community Garden. (Adrienne Lamb/CBC)

Bolster says they work with Correctional Services Canada running a couple of healing lodges in Edmonton and clients with Stan Daniels Healing Centre and Buffalo Sage Wellness House come to help regularly. 

“This is a chance for people to give back to the community, learning about food sovereignty, beautifying the city and getting in touch with the earth,” says Bolster, who is also the kitchen manager at SDHC. 

The city provided revitalization grants of approximately $10,000 to help with landscaping and garden infrastructure, says Bolster. 

“You know, I’m actually getting a little choked up thinking about all the work we did in the last three years. It’s gone from a really big eyesore to a beautiful location,” says Bolster.

Radio Active6:43The healing powers of gardening

We take you to Edmonton’s ‘rabbit den’ a community garden transforming lives and the landscape in the central part of Edmonton.

You can see more from Wâposo-Wâti Community Garden on this week’s edition of Our Edmonton on Saturday at 10 a.m., Sunday at noon and 11 a.m. Monday on CBC TV and CBC Gem. 

Gina Tsigos, an ophthalmic technician with Alberta Retina Consultants who works across the street from the garden, has watched the transformation out her office window. 

“It’s a wonderful way for the clinic to engage with the neighbourhood with the community and for this land to be used,” Tsigos says.

Gina Tsigos, an ophthalmic technician with Alberta Retina Consultants, a partner in the garden and located across the street, says patients are always interested in the goings on at the garden. (Adrienne Lamb/CBC)

“The patients love it. We have patients year-round asking us about the garden, what’s going on, what people are planting and who’s involved so it’s been really nice.”

The doctors at the clinic own the land and provide the fencing and water. Tsigos and other clinic staffers have a plot in the garden where last year they grew potatoes, tomatoes, and a mix of flowers.

“Honestly, I feel proud. It’s been really nice to be involved,” Tsigos says.

Elder Will Campbell sharing some knowledge at Wâposo-Wâti Park and Community Garden in Edmonton. (Adrienne Lamb/CBC)

Verena Petruka, a resident of Buffalo Sage Wellness House, has this year planted peas, beans and carrots. 

“I love being able to put my hands in the earth and play in the dirt and doing an honest day’s work and getting the community garden presentable,” Petruka says.

“Before I came in I did not have any self confidence, any self love and now I’m a strong independent woman.” 

The garden has been a grounding influence in her life and she’s passing on her horticultural know-how and welcoming others to the space like Ann Hardy. 

“You just feel so at home, right off the bat,” says Hardy, a member of the Edmonton Aboriginal Seniors Centre who visited the park for the first time this week to plant some potatoes.

Ann Hardy, a member of the Edmonton Aboriginal Seniors Centre, says it is important Indigenous people to “take back some of the traditional gardening.” (Adrienne Lamb/CBC)

“I needed to be taught how to do it,” says Hardy, “it’s important for us as Indigenous people to take back some of the traditional gardening.” 

“With our history, we’ve missed out on some of our teachings, and here it’s the youth, coming back and teaching us seniors. It gives me so much hope for the future.” 

Bolster says the future of Wâposo-Wâti includes expanding the playground area and creating a reconciliation crosswalk across 110th Street as well as hosting talks by elders and special events for National Indigenous Peoples Day next month.

“The potential for development is never ending.”

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