Marie Hunter and Bernice Magee display an artist’s rendition of the planned healing garden at the new Lakes District Hospital & Health Centre.

Marie Hunter and Bernice Magee display an artist’s rendition of the planned healing garden at the new Lakes District Hospital & Health Centre.

Healing garden in the works

The new Lakes District Hospital & Health Centre will have a unique feature when it opens in 2015.

The new Lakes District Hospital & Health Centre will have a unique feature when it opens in 2015.

Local resident Bernice Magee and Marie Hunter, the hospital’s current health services administrator, are working with a number of stakeholders to develop a healing garden at the facility. Located near what is now the current hospital’s entrance, the garden will provide patients, staff, and visitors with a place for relaxation and quiet reflection.

The idea of creating a healing garden initially came from a landscape architect working on new hospital, says Hunter. Facilities of this type are not only proving popular in other communities, but have been found to offer some health benefits.

“They’re finding some of them very therapeutic for patients in hospital, and for people coming in for different procedures,” explained Hunter recently. “It gives a spot that’s more relaxing for them to sit outside.”

While the idea to create a healing garden adjacent the hospital may have come from outside the community, Magee and Hunter have embraced the concept and given it a distinctly local focus. With help from an ad hoc committee, they’re working to ensure the garden reflects the community and its needs.

“The thing we’re both interested in that there’s some community ownership of the project, and the pride that goes along with that,” explained Magee. “We have all the experts doing the construction, but now, this is a place where we can bring in some local expertise and input… We have some experienced gardeners like Bev Olinyk, Linda Blackwell, Jeanette Derksen, and John Phair (involved). We have First Nations at the table, and we have, of course, the local maintenance staff. So there’s representation from Northern Health, the Village of Burn Lake, the First Nations, and the community at large.”

Hunter added there’s even a possibility that a unique totem – one that represents all First Nations in the Lakes District – could be added to the site.

While design work on the garden is ongoing, Magee and Hunter hope it will feature indigenous trees and plants, as well as benches and a gazebo manufactured from local forest products. They’d also like to see a walking trail created on the hillside southeast of the new facility, and an area set aside where residents could plant trees in memory of beloved friends and family.

Magee and Hunter are working closely with the new hospital’s building contractor, PCL Construction  and landscape architect Jay Lazzarin to finalize plans for the garden. It isn’t yet known how much the project will cost, although Hunter suggests it could be $50,000 or more.

While the new hospital’s construction budget includes some money for landscaping, additional funding will have to come from local sources. Magee and Hunter have communicated their plans to the Stuart-Nechako Regional Hospital District, and hope in memoriam donations made to that organization can be used to construct the healing garden.

“My idea was that we could access some of the money that has being held by the hospital district for capital projects,” explained Magee. “It’s about $60,000. That money has come from donations in memory of various people, and the sale of Dick Nourse’s little house that he donated to the village… If we could access the money from the regional hospital district for capital, and then invest the other money that had been willed to the village, we could use the return on that investment to go toward some of the maintenance for this particular project. It would help everybody.”

Donations toward the healing garden are still being accepted. Anyone wanting to contribute financially to the project can do so through the Village of Burns Lake, which will provide a receipt for income tax purposes.