Hedge maze planned at UNBC in Prince George

The sign along University Way announcing the future expansion of the David Douglas Botanical Garden has been up since last summer.

As far as Linda Naess is concerned, that future is now. All she needs is $2.7 million to realize that dream and construction could begin tomorrow.

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Plans for the next three phases of the garden project were unveiled Feb. 4 at the city council meeting, but for now the president of David Douglas Botanical Society is focused on raising the money needed to complete Phase 2 of the botanical garden.

“It’s a huge undertaking and our gardeners are ready to plant this spring, unfortunately the land isn’t ready, but they’re ready to go, that’s how excited we are,” said Naess.

“The sign created a lot of awareness. It’s going to take money, so we’re looking for donors and we’re going for grants and we’ll fundraise among our members."

Some of the features of the Phase 2 expansion include theme gardens which would include a wide walkway with arches, a lookout station, tree house, a green wall made of living plants, sculptures, gazebos, and a maze constructed of hedge shrubs.

During the spring runoff, Shane Creek runs through the site and large trees provide an indigenous forest feature on the south side of the property. A First Nations Garden which would include water and fire features, a medicinal garden, smudging pavilion and indigenous art is also included in the plan, as is a 3,000 square-foot visitor information centre.

A research garden to test fruits and vegetables suited to northern climates is also in the Phase 2 plan as well as community garden for UNBC students, with potential for a solar-heated greenhouse. Ornamental and seasonal lighting will bring people to the garden at night and to celebrate special events like Halloween and Christmas, similar to the decorative holiday displays at Connaught Hill Park and the Central B.C. Railway and Forestry Museum.

Phases 3 and 4 would develop ornamental theme gardens, a marsh wetlands and pond, fed by Shane Creek; selective clearing of the forest to allow planting of shade-tolerant plants; and expansion of the research gardens. The visitor centre would be expanded to include banquet facilities, a solarium and a café.

Jay Lazzarin, a retired landscape architect and David Douglas Society member, in his presentation to council offered a glimpse of what the completed four-phase $5.9 million botanical garden will look like, illustrated by a conceptual drone video flyover of the 23-acre site, on land UNBC donated the society, just west of the Charles Jago Northern Sport Centre. The society will consult stakeholders such as the city and UNBC and will survey user groups for their input on what they would like to see in the garden. For tourists and residents there’s huge potential to make the botanical garden and attractive draw.

“We believe that David Douglas Botanical Garden will inspire visitors and enhance the quality of life in our community and the garden will become a treasured source of pride,” Lazzarin said.

“We’d like to incorporate features that will make the garden as interactive as possible, to get repeat use. As the garden matures and grows we hope it’s going to be one feature on the list that all visitors will have to see. ”

The society is targeting Phase 2 as a two-year project to be completed in 2022. Construction of Phase 3, projected to cost $1.74 million, is slated for completion between 2024-2026. Phase 4, at $1.29 million, will require another two years, to be finished in 2028.

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