The living bridge has a fondness in my heart. I enjoyed many snacks there, from the Haskaps to the tomatoes. I would pass it on the days I walked to work, while carefully reviewing the construction detailing on the new museum as it was being built. For me, it was a gem in the city and spoke about rebuilding, transformation, and time. Its proximity to city hall showcased the cities progressive policies on urban farming, gardening, and temporary installations. The fruits were shared by anyone who visited it, and was maintained by diligent volunteers and community citizens. The living bridge has now closed as the property owners want to repave the bridge. My hope is that the paving will improve the bicycle connection to downtown from the northeast.
The closing of the bridge meant that the shrubs and plants needed to be relocated, or would be tossed away. The fruit shrubs were carefully removed from the garden by City of Edmonton (COE) employees and volunteers, and taken to various community gardens in the city, most in the McCauley area, as a way to ensure the plants were kept in the same community. A noble response to a garden that provided the community with a temporary transformation of a dilapidated bridge. Operation Fruit Rescue Edmonton (OFRE) was the largest recipient with a total of 22 fruit bearing shrubs being relocated to the OFRE Micro-Orchard located on the north side of the Intercultural Center on 107A, between 96th and 97th street (the former site of the McCauley School). The Micro-Orchard is the largest of its kind in Canada, and could easily handle the influx of fruit bushes. There were some Gooseberries, Nanking cherries, Red Currents, Saskatoons, and Haskaps, all of mature size, as they have been growing on the bridge for a few years.
The quality of the fruit bushes were outstanding and the root-balls were in good condition because of the limited growing depth on the bridge. OFRE crews worked hard over a two week time period to create and execute a plan, that would encompass a 2 day work-bee to locate and plant the shrubs. Mike Johnson, the Orchard Manager, took on the task, with the help of Amber Brant of OFRE, and Marcin Makarewicz, from the Edmonton Permaculture Guild. The work could not have been done without the amazing work of the McCauley Revitalization co-ordinator, Jane Molstad.
The much needed shrubs were placed strategically to define a winding path into the orchard that guides guests around the mandela. The shrubs also created a mid-level to the canopy of fruit bearing trees and cherries that were planted a few years ago, making the orchard look fuller and more complete. With the addition of plants, the orchard expands its base of fruit bearing trees and shrubs that can grown in the Edmonton Capital region, and becomes a real destination for food lovers in the city.
The living bridge may not be around, but the OFRE Micro-Orchard is a open site that anyone can visit, and pick the fruit. The orchard is the home to OFRE where the organization puts on a variety of workshops from apple maggot prevention to proper fruit tree care, and pruning. The site is also breeding ground for popular events like the gargantuan potluck held in August each year and open cider pressings held bi-weekly during apple season for citizens to learn how to make cider with their excess fruit. Check out the OFRE website for more information on dates and times. OFRE is also working closely with the Edmonton Permaculture Guild (EPG) to create a place that pushes the boundaries of typical garden design and construction, and are a great resource for people looking to install food forests and wholistic agricultural practices.
The living bridge will live on in various gardens throughout the city, and OFRE is proud and honored to be part of this history. OFRE will continue to push it’s vision of creating a community where all the fruit grown in the community is used productively. We will try to build new bridges between the orchard and the surrounding community as we create a home and a place for everyone to enjoy the fruits of Edmonton.
By Mike Johnson, OFRE Orchard Manager