The Radium Hot Springs Sunrise Rotary Club has been hard at work creating a community garden for the Radium village and the club’s efforts are close to fruition.

The new community garden, which will go by the name Rotary Gardens, already has 40 raised garden beds built, an eight-foot (2.5-metre) wildlife fence around it (put up last weekend), and will likely have the final touches, including a gazebo, benches, rosebushes and other park-like amenities, ready later this year.

“Hopefully it will be finished by this fall and we’ll hand it back to the village,” said Sunrise Rotary Club president and garden project organizer Dale Shudra.

The Radium Rotary club began raising funds for the project and started on some construction last fall. The club had been searching for a project to take on, gathered community feedback, and then did a feasibility study on the idea of a community garden, which a garnered positive response.

The Rotary Gardens project is on the parcel of land behind the old Radium elementary school (which the school board now leases to Parks Canada). The school board also owns the adjacent empty lot (that is now home to the gardens), which the Village of Radium Hot Springs has license to use. The village gave the Rotary club the go-ahead to construct the community garden there, with the plan that, once the project is finished, responsibility for it would revert back to the village. The municipality will form a garden committee to manage the Rotary Gardens from that point onward. Prior to becoming a garden, the space was often used as an informal soccer field or dog-walking space.

“Obviously, I think it’s awesome. It’s already become a meeting place; it’s located right in the centre of town. People are excited about it,” said Radium mayor Clara Reinhardt. “We have many people living in condos and apartments, and consequently they just don’t have an opportunity to have their own garden.”

Reinhardt said she’s been glad to see a good cross-section of people at the volunteer work days for the garden, from seniors to families with young kids, with both part-time and full-time residents all participating.

Community interest in the project is evident, with all 40 of the raised beds (which residents can subscribe to use for the season) already accounted for.

Shudra pointed out that community gardens have many benefits.

“It’s healthy, there’s an exercise aspect, there’s a communal aspect as it really creates a nice sense of community, and there’s an educational aspect,” he said. “It’s worked out really well so far. We want people to know it’s there and to use it, both the garden beds and the park aspect of it, which will be a great place to bring a book, sit down on the bench and relax. We’re quite optimistic it will be a great legacy for the club.”

Work on the garden has involved generous donations of time and effort from volunteers as well as in-kind contributions and financial support from the Columbia Basin Trust, the Columbia Valley Community Foundation, BC Hydro, Radium Resort and The Springs golf course (which is letting the garden use its untreated water). Accounting for the in-kind contribution and volunteer help, the total cost of the project is between $60,000 and $65,000, according to Shudra.

The club is planning an official grand opening sometime in June or July.