April 12, 2018: A West End Garden Legacy;
Sherry Clarke’s enduring work.
By Deb Chapman.
When you have three kids under the age of ten and live close to a park, that park becomes like a second home. That was the case for Sherry Clarke who lived just half a block away from the Clare Gardens Park on Evered.
Back in 2008, Shane 3, Alicia 6, and Kayleigh 11, spent most of their free time meeting friends and burning off energy on the play structures, and running around the field. But after 20 years of kids and teens having fun, the play structures were showing their age. The park was in decline.
The wood in the play structures was decaying and pieces were falling off. The park’s pathways had potholes. They didn’t connect. Teens were using the play structures to explore all sorts of more ‘adult behaviours’. The nearby bench was being used after dark for dope deals. The beautiful tree-lined park was showing decay and needed something to make its users respect it again.
Sherry had a great idea to make the park sparkle again. Why not ask owners for permission to remove perennials and shrubs from proposed infill developments, and transplant the plants to Clare Gardens Park? Developers and owners alike whole-heartedly agreed to every donation.
Everyone likes to save plants that add a little beauty in our lives. And so neighbours began guerrilla gardening, giving the plants on death row a reprieve. Garden beds were created where grass refused to grow. Visitors took notice of the landscaping improvements and it seemed like the park was getting a second chance.
The guerrilla gardeners have since gone legit. Now known as the Volunteer Gardeners of Clare Park, the gardeners have adopted the park, and partner with the Westboro Community Association on park clean-ups and special events. Gardens now encircle the park and new, engaging play structures have been added. Ten years on, Clare Gardens Park attracts visitors from neighbourhoods as far away as Chinatown, Ottawa South, and Woodroffe to the west.
Thanks to the vision and creative thinking of Sherry Clark, Clare Gardens Park is a success story. Her approach to recycling plants has made news across the province and the gardeners are often asked for advice by other community groups in Ottawa.
Sherry died last fall after a valiant fight against breast cancer. This community-minded trailblazer never stopped giving back to the community. Two weeks before her death, Sherry helped organize a fundraiser for the Sherrypalooza Run for the Cure team. She believed in giving back. The gardens she imagined, and worked to build, in Clare Park, will continue to bring beauty and a healthier environment for everyone to enjoy.
The Volunteer Gardeners of Clare Park are committed to continuing Sherry’s legacy. If you would like to join the gardeners and spend some time in the park making it pretty, please contact us. If you’re a parent, it’s a great way to be near your kids but give them some independence while they play. For everyone else, it’s a nice way to spend some time in nature. All are welcome. Drop us a line at: firstname.lastname@example.org .
Photo Caption: Sherry Clarke is fondly remembered for her generosity of spirit and her energy in making many lasting contributions to the enhancement and growth of her neighbourhood and her community. Clare Park Gardens represent just one facet of her legacy. Photo courtesy the Clark/Rivet family.