Serenity garden planted to help veterans find peace

P.E.I. Military Family Resource Centre and Island Nature Trust partnered to create a veteran serenity space at the Jenkins Complex Natural Area near Mount Albion, P.E.I.

'You come out into the nature and you feel, you just, find yourself again'

Stewardship co-ordinator Julie-Lynn Zahavich says Island Nature Trust has maps to trails on all the Island Nature Trust sites on their website. (Tom Steepe/CBC)

Staff from the Island Nature Trust and volunteers with P.E.I.'s Military Family Resource Centre got their hands dirty on Thursday at the Jenkins Complex Natural Area near Mount Albion, P.E.I.

About a dozen people planted trees and shrubs in a large clearing to create what they are calling a veteran serenity space.

"It's where you find your soul," said Leona Conrick, executive director of the centre.

The groups created the space as a quiet refuge for military veterans and their families and friends.

"You come out into the nature and you feel, you just, find yourself again. You can connect."

Jenkins Complex Natural Area is the Island Nature Trust's largest natural area on the Island at 280 hectares and the serenity space will be an area within it.

'Sheltered and safe'

Volunteers planted maple trees to create a peace circle with four red oaks marking the directions on a compass.

Staff and volunteers from the P.E.I. Military Family Resource Centre were out at the Jenkins Complex Natural Area to help with the planting. (Tom Steepe/CBC)

"We are creating a bit of an enclosed grove that people will be able to enter and we're taking a long-term view," said Julie-Lynn Zahavich, stewardship co-ordinator with the group.

She said the trees are small now, but the hope is they'll grow into a space that feels "really sheltered and safe in about 10 to 20 years."

The design includes a winding path so the area has some privacy, with trees and bushes to shelter the space from being observed from the main trail. 

'Experience peace'

The group's plan is to eventually create a short path leading to a bench by a small pond.

A group of 12 people were out on Thursday to plant the trees and bushes that will grow into the veteran serenity space. (Tom Steepe/CBC)

"I hope that they experience peace. If they're feeling any conflict, they can just come here and feel one with nature and just help to feel calm and peaceful," said Conrick.

Other benches and interpretive signage will also be added over time.

The garden was a joint initiative between the two organizations, with $18,000 for the project coming from the Charlottetown chapter of 100 Women Who Care.

The space, like all Island Nature Trust areas, is open to the public.

Four red oak trees were planted in the four directions on a compass, surrounded by a peace circle made up of red maple trees. (Tom Steepe/CBC)

"I just hope that they feel that they have a safe place to come and find that peace in nature," said Zahavich.

"We just want to help people find a peaceful place really and recover from whatever they might be recovering from."

More P.E.I. news

With files from Tom Steepe


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