Summer 2023 was the second year for the tours. Originally, I invented the tours as an antidote to the loneliness, fear, and polarization generated by global crises and wars, by climate change, and by challenges with health care/pandemic affecting many people ( notably rural seniors in B.C). I created a healthy, fun activity with exercise outdoors that would safely engage seniors of all ages while exploring the diverse cultures and values of their neighbourhoods. As one Nelsonite said of the Friendship ( Japanese theme) Garden in Railtown, “I never noticed this garden was here, and gosh, I live here!”
Summer 2023 tours were very popular, averaging 25-30 people per tour through tours in June, July, and August and about 15-20 people in Oct, for a grand total of 160+ people. In fact, the tours were honoured in May to receive a heritage award from ‘Heritage B.C.’ I was also invited to speak about the garden tours at an NSG summit held in Vancouver in June. There, I addressed the need for community (and gardening and culture walking tours) to restore connections with land wisdom and food security while simultaneously strengthening connections with the diverse cultures of neighbourhoods.
In summer 2023, attendance at the tours significantly increased despite my reducing the venues and dates to every second Sunday. What also increased and I welcomed were the working times spent with my interviewing each venue and writing up their preliminary culture stories. For 2023, the tour venues expanded to Uphill and outer Fairview. Host gardens were located at the Graine townhouses in Fairview, at Hoover St in Uphill, at 7th and Davies st, at Nelson Ave in Railtown, and at the 300, 500, and 900 blocks of 3rd st in Fairview. Every venue was accompanied by a story with cultural/history themes based on interviews with the homeowner gardeners. In some cases, the story was collective as told through the lens of a society or a strata administration. For example, the Nelson Izu-shi Friendship Garden tour at Cottonwood Falls Park in Railtown involved 5 weeks of my stories about the society, the origins and work for the garden and descriptions of their volunteer gardeners. The society sponsors exchange visits with Izu-shi, a sister city in Japan. At the end of this summary, you will see a quote from Society President John Armstrong.
The Graine tour in July was hosted by Graine administration homeowners, including involvement from many of the 25 individual townhouse/garden units at the Graine.
The Third st ‘heritage tour ‘ of gardens in June and July engaged presenter Berdine Jonker, a heritage specialist from the Heritage BC board. Berdine clarified heritage work and criteria for heritage buildings in Nelson. Berdine also spoke to residents’ concerns about new construction and housing in the community. Since the garden tours have a mailing list of 60+ people, it was easy to mail out the theme stories.
Climate Change Themes and Food Security:
For NSG this summer past, I had proposed a ‘green walk’ tour involving climate and food security themes. I proposed establishing ‘climate solution stations’ with public presentations by climate specialists. We accomplished this at the Graine tour in July, where 35 people toured an array of stunning homeowner gardens along the CPR rail tracks. From the gardens, we then toured the Grain’s vermiculture composting system with worms. We had set up seating at the Graine with refreshments in the shade, and there held presentations on native plants and pollinators, plus a presentation on bird-friendly initiatives to protect wildlife. Graine homeowners hosted the presentations. The oldest tourer was age 93. A photo of this intrepid senior is attached as part of the Friendship Garden tour on Oct 15. She is depicted merrily riding in the trishaw, which provides her with seating comfort during four of the seven tours.
The tours also included referrals to other community resources such as Firesmart, CWA ( the mobile trishaw), Hospice, and Nav-CARE, all of whom provide a variety of home and mobility services to residents. Promotion and advertising were mostly by word-of-mouth, the mailout stories, and face-to-face engagement. I knock on doors! It works! Many people trust a friendly elder face more than they do facebook.
The garden tours could offer a viable for-profit enterprise for an entrepreneur. I was approached by Kootenay Lake Tourism, who wanted to sponsor the tours as a tourist attraction. I appreciatively declined, as the tours are meant to support local community-building, but I am aware of their business potential. Although this prospect has no appeal to me personally, I am certainly interested in mentoring younger people to create a business. I love facilitating the tours and would like to see them become a legacy for others.
Thank You to NSG for your support, guidance, and inspiration. You are restoring heartfelt, respectful relations to our community. In turn, this creates safety and acceptance for all.