Collingwood’s Awen Gathering Place at Harbourview Park has been recognized with a provincial award for design.
The park, which features an Indigenous gathering circle, landscaping and natural areas, won a 2020 Parks and Recreation Ontario (PRO) Award of Excellence for park facility design.
“This year’s recipients have demonstrated a true commitment to advancing our sector through groundbreaking programming and planning,” said Jan Wilson, chair of PRO. “From skate parks to walking programs, they all demonstrate why parks and recreation are essential for the health and well-being of our citizens and communities.”
Construction on the Awen Gathering Place began in 2018. It was fast-tracked when the United Steelworkers Union offered to help with landscaping at the space in conjunction with their conference at Blue Mountain in September 2018.
The central structure for the park is the Indidgenous Gathering Circle, which was created with the direct involvement of indigenous architects, and the idea was inspired by a concept Dr. Duke Redbird came up with – to pair seven Ojibwe grandfather teachings with the seven layers of a food forest.
Redbird visited the site prior to construction and said it would once have been a food forest with many layers, which he likened to the seven grandfather teachings special to Redbird and other Canadian Indigenous teachers.
The site is a former landfill, and construction involved drilling steel pile foundation down to nearly bedrock level.
The Gathering Circle design features seven steel canopies made of laser cut steel with seven different designs representing the grandfather teachings of wisdom (Nbwaakaawin), love (Zaagidowin), respect (Mnaadendimoowin), bravery (Aakide’ewin), honesty (Gwekwaadiziwin), humility (Dbadendizwin) and truth (Debwewin).
The canopies are supported by pillars made from Yellow Alaskan Cedar trees (a Cyprus tree known for its strength). Under the canopies are seven platforms with plaques that include the grandfather teachings in Ojibwe.
Dean Collver, director of parks, recreation and culture for Collingwood, told council in 2018 the process followed to arrive at the design will pave the way for future projects done in consultation with local indigenous leaders.
“There is no part of this project that I’m not completely proud of,” said Collver in July, 2018.
In addition to the Gathering Circle, there will be a water park/splash pad installed this year that will incorporate natural design elements for a three-layer park inspired by the water cycle.
In a press release issued by the town today (Feb. 26) announcing the award, Collver thanked council and the community for supporting “progressive initiatives” like this.
Mayor Brian Saunderson said, in the press release, the Awen Gathering Place is a celebration of Collingwood’s Indigenous heritage, and that theme will continue for the next phase of development - the water play space.
“We are pleased and honoured that Parks and Recreation Ontario is recognizing this amazing heritage legacy feature in our community,” he said in the press release.
The awards will be presented on March 26 at the PRO Educational Forum and Trade Show at Blue Mountain Conference Centre in The Blue Mountains.
You can learn more about Awen Gathering Place on the town website.