The horizon at Harbourview Park has changed dramatically in the last week.
Towering wood poles now stand on top of the park’s berm capped with patterned white-steel canopies.
The structure is called a Gathering Circle, and it was inspired by Indigenous culture and traditional teachings.
Each of the canopies is laser cut with a different pattern. There are seven in total representing the seven Ojibwe 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).
The site was formerly used as a landfill and the trash proved to be closer to the surface than original geo-technical testing revealed.
The result of excavating the area was a few piles of soil littered with old tires, hoses, pipes and other debris.
“The stuff that can’t get incorporated into the ground will be removed to the landfill,” said Collingwood’s Director of Parks, Recreation and Culture Dean Collver. The remaining soil will be redistributed around the site and covered in topsoil.
Construction crews also had to build a temporary road stretching from the north end of Cedar Street to the structure on top of the hill. That rocky pathway will be in place for about a year, according to Collver. Eventually the property adjacent to the gathering circle will be bordered by armour stone, and the road will be necessary for crews to deliver the armour stone to the site.
The official opening ceremonies for the Gathering Circle project will take place on Sept. 7 in the afternoon, but the details of the event and those participating have not yet been announced.
Collver said the town is still planning the ceremony.
This project was fast-tracked because of an offer from the United Steelworkers Union to commit volunteers to help on a community project while they are here for a conference. On Sept. 6 there will be 400 Steelworker volunteers working on the Gathering Circle Site, building a pergola on the east end of Sunset Point and cleaning up the shoreline from Sunset Point to West Harbourview Park.
The volunteers will be doing landscaping work at the Gathering Space site to plant sod, trees, flower beds and complete trail works. The Steelworkers Union is the largest industrial labour union in North America and represents professionals from the steel, paper and forestry, rubber, manufacturing, and energy industries. The Union’s District 6 conference takes place at Blue Mountain Resort from Sept. 4 to 8.
“[The Steelworkers] wanted to give something to Collingwood,” said Collver. “At their cost, they’re handling all of this stuff.”
Collver said he is “thrilled” about how things are turning out at the Gathering Circle site and he and his staff are working out ways to “activate” the site with programs led by Indigenous groups in the region including drum circles and teaching opportunities.