The Eleanor Kidd Gardens sparkle during a sunny day in September 2009 — before they were wrecked by the flood of 2011. (FILE PHOTO)
A once picturesque slice of greenspace wrecked by the flood of 2011 is about to start a second life.
But the reclamation of the dilapidated Eleanor Kidd Gardens near the Riverbank Discovery Centre is a long way off. Removing dead trees, planting new ones and restoring one of the city’s jewels will take at least two years.
"There’s been a lot of behind-the-scenes work going on for the last couple of years, and our hard work is starting to pay off," said Rachelle Levesque, tourism services and programs co-ordinator.
Brandon Riverbank Inc., a non-profit organization, has been busy collecting grants from the federal government and various corporations over the past year after it was denied Disaster Financial Assistance.
Included in the slew of grants is the TD Green Streets program worth $15,000 — money that will focus on Eleanor Kidd Gardens.
The city’s parks department started hauling out the dead trees that litter the gardens last week and it’s expected to take until next spring for the area to be completely cleared out.
As that work continues, Riverbank is reaching out to volunteers to help plant trees through various events in the coming weeks and the city will plant upwards of 300 mature trees.
"We’re trying to purchase the biggest trees possible, so their chances of survival will be a lot better," Levesque said.
"We want to be very careful where we plant the trees that we purchase," she said. "We are consulting with engineers and arborists to make sure we’re picking the right locations for these trees to go."
Riverbank is still in talks with experts on what types of trees will be the most flood-resilient to replace those that have fallen, which were mostly ash and maple. Levesque estimated around 600 trees will be planted in total at the gardens.
Aside from the safety issues from fallen trees, the gardens have been closed due to a nearby dike, making it difficult to gain entry. Until the city finishes the first phase of its $24-million permanent dike system, the gardens will remain inaccessible, Levesque said. The city says dike construction is expected to start this year.
While work has finally started on the gardens — a prime destination in Brandon for weddings, celebrations and tourists — it’s estimated a total of $20,000 will be lost by the time it reopens.
"We like to be the city of Brandon’s central park and unfortunately it’s lost right now, but we’re doing everything that we can to rebuild it for the city and the visitors," Levesque said.
Eleanor Kidd Gardens is just the tip of the reclamation iceberg for Riverbank, with some 15,000 trees to be removed from the river corridor in the coming years. This year, Riverbank will focus on the gardens and the oval area west of 18th Street. Work will focus on Queen Elizabeth Park in 2014, and Dinsdale Park in 2015.
The price tag on the multi-year plan is estimated at $1.5 million.
On Saturday, Riverbank is calling on volunteers to plant trees as part of the TD Trees Days between 9 a.m. and noon.
A Walmart-sponsored planting will also happen on Tuesday, followed by the TD Green Streets event specifically for Eleanor Kidd Gardens on Oct. 19.
For details, call or email Levesque at firstname.lastname@example.org or 204-729-2129.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 20, 2013