The Children’s Garden at Robert F. Legget Park
The Children’s Garden, at the corner of Main and Clegg in Old Ottawa East, is Ottawa’s first dedicated children’s garden. Its big purpose is to serve as a space to engage and educate the senses, the mind and the imagination in terms of our relationships with nature. Its even bigger purpose is to have fun in the process.
In May of 2008, Robert Legget Park was a virtually unused patch of grass with a few trees. Today it is alive with organic food-growing beds, a woodland garden, a bursting-with-colour fence painted by Lady Evelyn kids, a beautiful stone pathway, a seating circle for story-time and activities, a composter, and a variety of shrubs and trees. It has hosted play-groups, art-making workshops, organic gardening workshops, harvest feasts and more. It is a “giving garden,” an idea promoted by the late local farmer and bee-keeper Terry McEvoy. So anyone is welcome to help out in the garden, and to harvest from the garden.
Of course, the target audience is kids, but we need adults (with or without kids) to keep things happening and to stay ahead of the weeds. If you have even just an hour here and there throughout the season to help out, we’d love to hear from you. Or just drop by and check it out. Have a picnic. Eat a cucumber. Pull some weeds.
The Children’s Garden is at the corner of Main and Clegg, and is easily reachable on bike, on foot or with OC Transpo. Bus 5 stops at the corner. Plan your visit with the bus by using OC Transpo’s Travel Planner, or see it on Google Maps.
How the Garden Came to Be
Once SLOE took on the idea of developing the garden, amazing energy and fruitful partnerships quickly gathered around it. A lease was negotiated with the City’s Parks and Recreation branch (thank you!), with assistance from Sue Bramley, the City’s community garden coordinator. Funding was successfully solicited from Evergreen/Walmart and the Community Foundation of Ottawa. Students from Lady Evelyn Public School (in particular Jennifer Dawson’s class) threw themselves into research and design, and plans began to take shape. A number of core volunteers—including Annette Hegel, Rebecca Aird, Alan Kenworthy, Leah MacDonald and Erin Kaipainen (from Carleton University Student Services) — put enormous creativity, determination and muscle into making things happen.
A big boon to the development of the garden in its first year was the decision by the Corporate Council on Volunteering (a Volunteer Canada initiative) to adopt it as one of their main annual projects. After an intense few weeks of preparation, senior executives from major Canadian companies, along with Lady Evelyn students, spent a day installing the picket fence (each picked individually painted by a student), the pathway, the seating area and the composter. Instant transformation.
Sandy Hill Community Health Centre has been an invaluable partner in the development of the Garden, enabling significant involvement from talented community development staff (Chris Osler for the first several years, and currently Geri Blinick); supporting key fundraising efforts; and serving as employer for the seasonal coordinator. The Main Farmers Market has also been a backer of the garden since its inception, providing funding for our first and subsequent seasonal coordinators. And volunteers from many other organizations -- including the Community Garden Network, Carleton University, Let's Talk Science, and the Ottawa Master Gardeners -- have made important contributions along the way.
The Children's Garden was honoured with a 2010 National Urban Design Award from the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada as the country's best community-improvement project; it also won a Special Jury Prize at the 2009 Ottawa Urban Design Awards.
For More Information:
- Breen, Katie. "Children's Garden, year six" Mainstreeter
- Searson, Hannah. "Singing seeds, sprouting greens and edible treasures in the Children's Garden." Mainstreeter, Aug. 2012
- "Children's Garden in 2012" Mainstreeter, June 2012
- Badran, Aamina "Children's Garden 2011 a Success" Mainstreeter Nov./Dec. 2011, p. 25
- Blinick, Geri "Growing Gardeners, Curiosity and Wonder at the Children’s Garden" Mainstreeter Jul./Aug. 2011, p. 22 (pdf, 5.6 mb)