North Saanich’s 11-acre Dominion Brook Park was created by the Canadian Department of Agriculture in 1912, as a demonstration arboretum and ornamental garden for public use.
The land clearing began in 1912, and as the park was formed plants were ordered from nurseries in Britain, Holland, Germany, France, Japan and the United States.
The hope was to learn what plants would survive and thrive in the region.
Joan Gibb has been one of the volunteers working in the park since 2000. “We’re fortunate enough to have a card for every plant, so we know exactly where, when, how come, whether it moved, whether it died, and how it progressed.”
She added that her favourite of all the plants “is a simple beech tree, European Beech, that was grown from seed collected at Flanders Field and planted here in 1922.”
Dominion Brook Park was a popular, well-loved gathering place for decades, until federal funding to maintain the park stopped in the mid-1980’s.
Volunteer Penny Boone remembers what the park looked like at that time.
“It really did go to rack and ruin… It was just, really a mess, and they got in here and pulled ivy that had trunks like that out of here.”
They were a group of volunteers, including Joan Gibb, who formed the “Friends of Dominion Brook Park” in 2000 to bring the park back.
With a stewardship agreement between the federal government, the District of North Saanich, and the Friends, a relationship was established to facilitate the rehabilitation and maintenance of the historic space.
Joan Gibb explained that the District of North Saanich does the regular maintenance.
“We don’t mow the lawn, or take care of danger trees, or use power tools, but the volunteers do the raking, the weeding, the planting if necessary.”
Verna Warren is the third generation to work this soil. Her grandfather helped clear the land and begin the planting.
“I guess they were just basically building the park,” said Warren. “And then my father [Sam Arrowsmith 1917-1976] was head of the greenhouse, or the plantings. He designed the sunken garden.”
The Friends of Dominion Brook Park meet at the park, at 8801 East Saanich Road, every Wednesday morning from mid-March untill mid-October.
The Friends welcome donations, or any Wednesday, an extra pair of hands.