Elora Green Space brings new life to downtown core

A tree may grow in Brooklyn, but in Elora, the community now has a new Green Space.

For roughly 80 years, a gas station occupied the corner of Metcalfe and Mill Street West, but all that has changed in no small part due to the spirit of the local community.

In a recent telephone interview with the Advertiser, Elora BIA administrator Fred Gordon first offered the clarification that despite appearances, “this is not a park – it is a green space.”

Gordon explained part of this is due to regulations as to what is considered a park.

He added that recently, there had been visual black eyes at either end of Mill Street West.

One was the temporary closing of the Elora Mill. The other was the demolished site of the former gas station.

“Mill Street was looking pretty sad.”

Something needed to be done, Gordon said.

Local residents and business people along Mill Street West along with members of the Elora BIA decided they couldn’t sit back.

“A community movement started along Mill Street West – from Gas to Grass,” Gordon explained.

The local ideas meshed with ideas proposed by Shawn Watters to create a new green space area in the downtown.

“Several meetings later, it snowballed into something wonderful,” he said.’

“We feel this might be the first project of its kind ever in the transformation of a site where there was contaminated soil.”

Gordon said the green space was made possible through donations from Centre Wellington Township, the Elora BIA, Suncor (the property owner) and innumerable other people.

He considered the project from start to completion as “a real example of community spirit at its best.”

Gordon agreed there are still bills to be paid, “but everyone involved is mindful of the costs and have worked to keep them as low as possible.”

Even so, the high quality  landscape now includes a number of mature trees transported from other locations within  Wellington

Gordon noted the Landmark Group, owners of the Elora Mill, donated the large boulders for the green space site, in addition to the transportation costs to bring the boulders to the site.

He considered the journey to make this green space a reality “amazing.”

There have been numerous tweaks to the project including an irrigation system and night lighting.

The transformation of the site also brings a transformation to part of the downtown, Gordon said.

Until its closure in recent years, there had been a service station at the same location since the 1930s.

“So for almost 80 years, a lynch pin corner of the community had been defined by a service station.”

While gas stations are a necessary part of the community, Gordon said they are not always the most attractive buildings.

Now, he said, the site has been transformed into a green space which can act as a respite for visitors and resident alike, where husbands can relax while their spouses are shopping, or where families can enjoy a picnic lunch while enjoying the views of Elora.

“This space is for everyone to use,” he added.

“While there are sculptures installed – this is not a sculpture park. There just happens to be sculptures here.”

Thus far, Gordon estimated $38,000 is committed to the project including $8,000 from the Elora BIA, $5,000 from Suncor and a $25,000 interest-free loan from the township.

In addition, donations are coming in from other groups, businesses and residents.

He said that on Aug. 9, at 7pm, residents and visitors alike are invited to a grand opening of the green space on Aug. 9.

“We’re trying to keep it brief,” he laughed.

He anticipates comments from representatives of Suncor, the fundraising committee, the Elora BIA and township council.

Gordon added that Mayor Joanne Ross-Zuj agreed to take part in the ceremonial ribbon cutting.

He added the Elora BIA would like to thank everyone involved in making the greenspace come alive.

He quipped, “It’s a lot like the Academy Awards, I don’t know where to start.”

He added that members of the fundraising committee will be in attendance that evening to accept donations in any amount.

There will be special recognition within the park in the near future to mark significant donations from individuals, organizations and businesses.