Tanya Thurmeier. Photo courtesy of Mary Giuliano

Fernie woman creates sanctuary for people of all ages, abilities

By Mary Giuliano

In Fernie as in most places, many projects that benefit the entire community are achieved because of dedicated volunteers.

Local resident Tanya Thurmeier is one of those willing to volunteer time and expertise towards the success of the Fernie Family Garden. She is the coordinator for a garden on the land where the Catholic Rectory and Church Hall used to stand on Fifth Avenue.

The property stood idle for years until parishioner Reggie Vinge initiated the idea that it could become a community garden, she then asked Tanya to help out.

“I’ve always liked gardening, working in the dirt is close to nature, it’s very therapeutic, you’re outdoors and it allows for quiet meditation,” said Tayna.

“Volunteering is good for the soul and for the community, you get to meet lots of people, and it’s very beneficial to the individual experience, I’m very happy to be involved,” she added.

With other volunteers and donations Tanya has achieved success in leveling out and preparing the land for planting and also having three of the five beds installed. She becomes very animated speaking about the plans for the garden and shows a sketch of how the garden will take shape with walkways, fencing, gates and play spaces.

She envisions the space as one that will be for people of all ages and abilities and emphasizes that this space will be especially welcome to anyone with a disability. To achieve this she was introduced to members of the Canadian Adaptive Network,(CAN) a local group that has recently completed a survey of Fernie businesses to gauge the level of accessibility in this community.

Being a not-for-profit, Tanya explained this group, “Grew out of the personal experiences of people with functional limitations in the Elk Valley and its purpose includes fostering awareness of the needs of persons with functional limitations and engaging in educational activities to change perceptions and improve informational resources.”

She said CAN and the Garden goals line up in working towards something that will not only be for gardeners but for educational opportunities such as teaching children where healthy food comes from, learning about preserving and drying, foraging for food, holding workshops and focusing on interaction between generations.

“I hope it gets lots of interaction, especially from the Senior Centre which is close by,” she said.

The garden has already had donations of perennials such as roses, lilies, and herbs that were transplanted, fruit trees were planted last fall. She is hoping to have fencing sturdy enough that will hold flowering vines growing on it to attract pollinators and as an enhancement and windbreaker to a shady area for sitting.

Tanya is animated as she speaks of the plans to incorporate a natural outdoor play space for kids so as to encourage them to play or have their own little garden. She wants to do everything right the first time, she is happy with the progress so far and is looking for more donations and volunteers, any amount adds up and goes to service this amazing project she says.

There has been great support from the community and the plan to develop a phased development is in the works.

“We started with ground zero and are creating a vision and final product, we are grateful for the contribution of equipment, material and labour from the many volunteers,” she explained.

As with many projects partnering with others is what creates success to make this a welcoming, beautiful and restful place.

She envisions trailing plants growing along the metal wire fence filling the interior with greens and brightly coloured blooms. She sees a boardwalk and pathways and spaces for the children to play and adults and all those with disabilities able to come in and work on their beds filled with flowers and vegetables and herbs or just or sit or walk around and enjoy the beauty of the surroundings.

Thank you Tanya and all volunteers working and contributing to this community, you are truly the heart that keeps this town the special place it is.

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