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In April 2018, the City of Humboldt was forever changed by the tragic bus crash involving the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team.

Landscape Saskatchewan and Landscape Alberta jointly wrote to the City of Humboldt offering condolences as well as the service of their members to assist in building a memorial garden. At the same time, Communities in Bloom and Scott’s Canada had also reached out to Humboldt’s Mayor.

The Humboldt District Health Complex was selected as the site of the memorial/healing garden. Olds College Horticultural Program participated in designing ideas for the project, student Joy Newsham’s design concept was selected for the project. Christyn Palazzo of Designs in Regina, SK, adapted the concept drawings to meet some specific site needs. The working plan was presented to Landscape Saskatchewan and Landscape Alberta members on March 11, 2020, including the addition of a commissioned art piece by renowned local sculptor, Murray Cook. Later the same day the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. The project was put on hold.

Heading in to 2021, Leslie Cornell, President of Landscape Saskatchewan and owner of Cornell Design and Landscaping in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan wanted to make this the year the dream was realized. Leslie created a plan to install the garden over the course of the summer of 2021. The final touches were added to the garden in June 2022, including installation of site furniture and a pergola.

Working with the seven main partners, including Scott’s Canada, Landscape Alberta, Landscape Saskatchewan, Communities in Bloom, Green Cities Foundation, the City of Humboldt, and the Humboldt District Health this core steering group was joined by dozens of volunteers and donors to make this garden a reality. The design and build process for this garden also involved a diverse group of stakeholders, each bringing different perspective and ideas, all of which were considered and implemented throughout the multi-year journey.

This garden includes hundreds of trees, shrubs, and perennials, along with a large area of turf. Great care was taken to ensure irrigation was available to all plant material. The carbon sequestration, pollution scrubbing, and wind breaks this garden will provide to residents of the town and hospital patients, staff and guests alike will be realized for generations to come.

The true impact of the Humboldt Urban Garden Sanctuary also known as HUGS has yet to be fully appreciated. In the years to come, the garden will be a memorial, a place for reflection, healing and community. As a community garden project supported by industry it built bridges between the professional trade associations, the Communities in Bloom municipalities, the Green City foundation and all of our members and suppliers to create something beyond what any of us could achieve alone. There is no way these contributions can ever make up for the immense loss of the tragedy that inspired it, but the spirit of working together as a team and providing a legacy for many to remember and perhaps heal is a great honour to everyone involved.

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Mentor Moment: Leslie Cornell
Interview by Karina Sinclair

To Leslie Cornell, a career in horticulture isn’t just about growing plants — it’s about nurturing a community of people and their passion for gardening. Cornell owns and operates Cornell Design and Landscaping, a full service company including a garden centre and greenhouse in Moose Jaw, Sask. In addition, Cornell devotes time and energy volunteering within the landscaping community. She is a past president for Landscape Saskatchewan, and has held leadership roles within various CNLA committees.

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