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$1.2M expansion, accessibility upgrade planned for UNBC garden

Work on phase 2 of the David Douglas Botanical Garden expansion is expected to start this year.
A $1.2 million expansion and accessibility upgrade is planned for the David Douglas Botanical Garden at UNBC's Prince George campus.

A $1.2 million expansion project of the David Douglas Botanical Garden at UNBC will go ahead, thanks in part to funding from the Northern Development Initiative Trust.

The David Douglas Botanical Garden Society has a four-phase plan to expand the botanical gardens to a 23-acre parcel of land on the UNBC campus in Prince George. Phase 2 will see the development of roughly four acres of the site, garden society president Linda Naess said.

“It’s a great thing for the society, and a great thing for the university, but even more it’s a great thing for the community,” Naess said. “It’ll be a place to take people.”

The current display gardens on campus already draw out-of-town visitors, she said, and the goal is to create an outdoor space to be enjoyed by locals and tourists alike.

Phase 2 of the expansion will see the development of an axial walkway leading through ornamental gardens, a UNBC research garden, indigenous plant garden and possibly a community garden and maze, Naess said. The society is currently working with a landscape architect to finalize the design for the project.

“The axial walkway will lead to a focal piece at the end of it,” Naess said. “It may be a place where people can play music… or a fountain – we haven’t decided that yet.”

As a botanical garden, education is a key part of the society’s mission, she said. The gardens will highlight plants that grow well in Prince George’s climate and plants native to the region.

Phase 2 also includes the installation of a visitor kiosk with accessible deck, public washroom, office space and parking lot. The planned kiosk is a donated passive house demonstration building. The Recycling and Environmental Action Planning Society (REAPS) will be moving out of their current location to join the David Douglas Botanical Garden Society at the facility.

Non-slip walkways, low-slope ramps, lighting, resting benches, safety signage and other inclusive features will be added to improve accessibility to the garden.

Shane Creek runs through the area and wetland areas will be preserved, Naess said. The longer-term goal is to include a wetland walking trail with view points and other features.

Construction of phase 2 is expected to start in a few weeks with clearing and grubbing, she said. Final grading and planting will begin in the spring and work is expected to be complete by the end of 2023.

“It may not be in full bloom. It takes awhile for ornamental gardens to establish themselves,” she added.

On Oct. 26, Northern Development Initiative Trust’s board approved a $300,000 Economic Infrastructure grant for the society to support phase 2 of the project to develop phase 2. The society received a $700,000 grant for the project from the B.C. Ministry of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport through the 2021 Community Economic Recovery Infrastructure Program. Private sponsors have donated the rest of the money.

The grant from Northern Development Initiative Trust was the final piece of the puzzle to fund phase 2 of the project, Naess said. Before they began planning the expansion, the society hosted more than 40 stakeholder sessions with various organizations.

The society doesn’t have a timeline yet for work on phases 3 and 4 of the garden. It will take “money, time and hard work” to see those projects through, Naess said.

“It’s exciting, but it's also stressful,” Naess said.