Inch by inch, eight volunteers push, pull, haul and yank their way through acres of park land.
One is on all fours carefully painting mortar between granite stones gingerly fitted into a stone stairway. Three others count to three and heave a tarp full of leaves onto the back of a trailer destined for the dump.
It has been 10 years since “friends” came to the rescue of a once derelict park with a society aptly named after it and Friends of Dominion Brook Park was born. While much work remains, the past decade has proven to be fruitful one for the reenergized Peninsula destination.
“A community of people have come together and we have accomplished a lot in 10 years,” said FDBP field work director Joan Gibb. “It is the sheer joy of watching something be reborn. It is a long rehabilitation it had been neglected for over 20 years.”
The popular local destination went from a horticultural showcase in the early 1900s, when 12 acres of the Dominion Experimental Farm were set aside for a public display garden, to an abandoned wilderness and now back to a popular local recreation area.
“(Now) the whole area has an aura of serenity,” Gibb said. “It is a place of quiet contemplation — but absolutely marvellous for a group of school children to run wild and enjoy themselves.”
In part, it was the silence, the lack of activity in a park with so much history and potential and that moved Gibb to help rehabilitate the park that languished hallow and alone for so long.
With the help of many volunteers, including the current 13 who range in age from 64 to 91 and meet at the park Wednesday mornings from 9 to 11 a.m., Dominion Brook is now a far cry from the ivy-ensnarled wilderness that once seemed destined for a life alone.
“We watched it deteriorate due to budget cuts and priority changes … it had become overgrown and abandoned and there was a shortage of government money for grants,” said John Dawson one of the longest serving members of the society. “We figure we had to do fundraisers ourselves.”
The 81-year-old began looking for support for the park in 1999 before the society was even formed and with just the tools from his house, he hasn’t looked back since.
“It is a very, very rare gem of a park,” he said. “I think you do something for your community … You don’t get a good opportunity like this right close by to create something for the community and put something back that was there before.”
Having completed phase one of three on the redevelopment of the park’s ravine and rhododendron collection in 2010, phase two, which looks at having professionals survey, screen and assess the park and propose detailed improvements is now underway.
Now 10 years older but much trimmer than in years past, the park plays host to events from the flavour trail, elder college, the blessing of the basset hounds, the westie walk and the annual Easter egg hunt to family weddings, reunions and photo sessions which is music to the ears of the 69-year-old Gibb who has no plans to stop clipping, trimming and pulling her way to a better park.
“I will be involved with the park as long as I am doing something useful and as long as I am able to contribute,” she said. “As long as the body holds out.”
For more information visit dominionbrookpark.ca.