The Humboldt Urban Garden Sanctuary (HUGS) welcomed volunteers, contributors and guests to its official opening on Wednesday, June 22. The spacious and intricately designed park has been four years in the making. 

The park is the result of many agencies and businesses coming together. Among those are the Saskatchewan and Alberta landscape associations, Humboldt and District Health Complex, the city, Communities in Bloom, and a host of designers and contributors plus plant and systems donors such as Misty Gardens. 

Leslie Cornell of Cornell Design and Landscapes was the managing contractor on the implementation. She talked about the Green Cities Foundation, a national organization that connects people and plants for greener, healthier urban climates. 

“The project helped bring green industry professionals and community members together to help green their city and create a space of relaxation and healing in Humboldt.” 

Cornell and many others, including local Bronco families and tireless workers like Roger and Sheila Nordick, have been part of the project since its initiation. The pandemic brought some aspects of the work to a halt, but all were grateful to see the opening ceremony. 

Carol Brons represented the Bronco families, and she talked about the healing she experienced working at the site and watching the garden evolve. 

“This sanctuary is amazing. Being here to see this garden take shape and get my hands dirty helped my healing process, and the friendships I made with volunteers brought happiness to me – happiness I had been missing.”

The garden is anchored by an impressive 14 foot metal sculpture incorporating floral themes and three butterflies. The wings on the butterflies are constructed of the metal sheath surrounding opaque, brightly coloured plastic that produces coloured shadows traversing the garden throughout the day. Murray Cook, well-known local metal artist, is behind the design. Cook explains he was given a few general parameters, and the rest of the design was a fluid creation that emerged as the work progressed. 

“When I do anything like this, I always make extra pieces because I don’t know exactly what I’m doing until it’s done. I didn’t know whether I needed three flowers or more, but four looked much better.”

The rust patina was created by a chemical reaction Cook imparted to the metal. It gives the striking creation a bronzed look from a distance that blends into the earthy environment.

The garden space itself was designed by students from Olds College’s horticulture program with refinements made by Regina landscape designer Christyn Palazzo. She talks about the design features that make up the ethos of the sanctuary.

“The intent was really to show connection. There are a lot of walking paths, but we always wanted them to connect through important sitting areas. One of the patios is called the Sunrise Patio, and it has a sitting wall that faces east when you are sitting on it with the intention of looking toward the sunrise. It reminds you that the sun will rise every day, and you will continue to move forward into your journey. It is planted with 13 shrubs and grasses around the perimeter to represent the survivors of the Bronco crash.”

Its counterpart is the Sunset Patio, explains Palazzo, a west facing design with 16 plants alongside to remember those lost in the tragedy. A pair of planting beds resembling angel wings are meant to provide a floral embrace for those sitting in the Sunset Patio and reflecting on their journey. 

Following the speeches, attendees mingled, introduced themselves, and took satisfaction in the accomplishment and in the knowledge that the space will provide comfort and solace for many in the years to come.