As early as 1980, the Chinese community in Edmonton has sought to build a garden in the City to reflect its culture, so when the City tried to develop the Louise McKinney Riverfront Park, south of Chinatown, the Edmonton Chinatown Development Foundation seized the opportunity to promote the concept of building an authentic Chinese garden inside the Park.
At the official opening of the Louise McKinney Park, Mayor Bill Smith recognised the Chinese Garden as an integral part of the riverfront development, and to show the City’s support, he announced that the City would provide the land for our garden project.
To facilitate fundraising activities, we formed the Edmonton Chinese Garden Society in August 2000. Shortly after that, our Board had adopted a constitution and By-laws. On September 18, 2000 we were successfully registered as a charitable organization (Business Number: 86419 1960 RR0001), and later on November 28 of the same year, our Society was also incorporated under the Alberta Societies Act (Corporate Access Number: 509092334).
Since its inception our Society has grown from just a handful of initiators to over nine hundred members, and so far has raised over ONE MILLION DOLLARS.
Since the turn of last century there has been a strong Chinese presence in downtown Edmonton. In fact, up until the 1960s, the site of Louise McKinney Riverfront Park was utilized by the Chinese to grow Chinese vegetables for local consumption. In fact the Chinese garden concept was derived partly from this tradition of planting and growing. This together with the fact that there is a strong storyline of the Park linking to Edmonton’s past makes the building of a Chinese garden inside the Louise McKinney Riverfront Park such a natural fit, since the legacy of the Chinese pioneers was an inseparable part of the City’s development.
The Chinese Garden, located between the Oval Lawn and the Rose Garden in the Louise McKinney Riverfront Park, occupies only 1.25 acres; it features the authentic Chinese architecture and horticulture. There will be a hexagon pavilion, a nine-dragon wall, a stone bridge, a rock pond, a main gate and many, many winding paths and stone carvings.
When built, our Garden will definitely become a gem of the City’s already popular river valley. However, its success will only be measured by its long-term significance to the community. Due to its uniqueness, we are confident that our Chinese garden will be able to enhance the understanding and appreciation of the Chinese culture, and have a positive impact on the quality of life of our community
The landscape architect firm ISL was selected to oversee the whole project. Its work includes the preparation of the Master Plan, budget, environmental screening report, and contract documents for the total development. In addition, architects specialized in Chinese garden from Harbin, China, Hong Kong and Macau had been invited to join the local architect Francis Ng to provide the designs for the garden’s architectural elements.
After two years of careful screening and reviewing by all stakeholders, the City finally approved the design, and Stuart Olson Constructors Inc. was chosen as the prime contractor of our Project. Phase One construction, with the exception of some detailed final touch, which requires skilled craftsmen from China, has been completed.
The two most intriguing aspects of a Chinese garden are its unique horticulture and architectural elements. Because of our harsh winter and short growing season, most of the exotic vegetations grown in China cannot be duplicated here in Edmonton. However, the unique style of architecture will help the Chinese garden become a year round attraction.
It is proposed that there will be two pavilions, a stone bridge, a rock pond, a nine-dragon wall, two gates and many winding paths and stone carvings. Each of these elements has some interesting, and even mysterious, stories to tell. All these will certainly add another dimension to our community’s well being.
In addition, there will be a monument to commemorate the Chinese pioneers, whose legacy had been an integral part of Edmonton’s heritage.
All three levels of Government have been very supportive of our project. The City has provided us with the choiced property in the City’s most popular river valley, and promised to give us $150,000 in cash and $50,000 in materials to help our cause. In 2003 our application for funding from ICAP, the Infrastructure Canada-Alberta Program, was approved. It was a matching fund program: for every dollar we raised, it was matched by both the Federal and the provincial government to the maximum of $125,000 each. Our Society was also very successful in securing funding from the Provincial Government. Through the Community Facility Enhancement Program (CFEP), we had twice received a $125,000 cheque from that Government. They also required matching fund from our Society.
Our Society also has the support of the People Republic of China. Back in 2002 the City of Harbin, the Twin city of Edmonton in China, had helped us with our conceptual design, and made a pledge through a letter of intent to assist our Society in whatever way they could. Most recently, the State Department of China had presented us with a pair of beautiful stone lions, which we had placed at the entrance of our Garden.
Other fundraising activities have also been conducted by our Society. They include fundraising banquets and letter campaign. A Fundraising Committee, headed by Councillor Terry Cavanagh, with more than twenty well-known community leaders, professionals and business people, has also been formed to actively solicit donations from corporations and individuals.
A donor recognition program, “Reach for the Star”, was set up to honour those who made substantial contributions. Lifetime members would also be recognized by having their names inscribed on a plaque. All donations made to our Society since our inception were recorded in our database, and credits have been given to those who make their donations continuously.
Other fundraising activities include “Tell a friend” and “Networking”. If you think our Chinese garden is a worthy project, you are asked to spread the good news: tell a friend. If you know someone who has the potential to become a big donor, inform the Society. Our Board will try to make contact with that individual.
In addition, our Society had been granted a casino license and had hosted a casino once. And another casino is scheduled to be held in May 2006. Each time our Society will net close to $80,000.
When built, our Garden will certainly become a perfect gathering place. With its location by the river and downtown, it will offer an opportunity for a significant number of festivities as well as family picnics and walking tours. In the summer people can watch fireworks and the dragon boat races from the garden. It is also an ideal venue to host recreational, cultural, and heritage events.
Chinese gardens have long been linked to poetry, calligraphy and painting. Together they form the most important part of the Chinese culture. Periodically tents will be set up for lectures and exhibitions. This will not only help the younger generation of the Chinese descent reclaim the rich legacy, which they may otherwise have missed, but also enrich the lives of other Canadians as well.
The City’s Community Service Department has already planned to work in conjunction with our Society to accept booking for functions to be held in our garden for next year.
Our Society has an excellent management team. All our Directors are democratically elected and are all volunteers. It is stipulated in our By-laws and constitution that any revenue or accretions to the Society, after the necessary expenses, shall be solely used for the development, construction and maintenance of our Garden. There shall be no personal gain, monetary or otherwise, by any members of our Society.
In addition, our Society has adopted the Ethical Fundraising & Financial Accountability Code developed by the Canadian Centre for Philanthropy. Since our Garden is located inside a city park, the land is provided by the City, and the basic level of maintenance after completion will be handled by the City as well. This leaves our Society virtually no liabilities. Nevertheless, it is advisable to set up an endowment fund for future expansions and major repairs whenever it is necessary.
All our designs have to meet the federal and provincial environment requirements, and the provincial and municipal fire and safety standards. And we have to guarantee people with disabilities barrier free access to our Garden.
As you can see our garden is an attractive project, and we are positioning ourselves at the centre of the City’s next mega development. Ever since 1996 Edmonton city Council has decided to develop Edmonton’s river valley as a means to achieve economic prosperity. Edmonton’s river valley is our jewel and greatest natural asset. The creation of an urban waterfront, such as Louise McKinney riverfront, along with establishment of river activities and riverbank amenities, is a significant means to achieving this objective.
However, due to other priorities, such as the Churchill Square, the City has temporarily neglected the river valley project. But all these are going to change. Last year the City Council pushed ahead with more than $7 million worth of enhancements to the Louise McKinney Riverfront Park. Included in these enhancements is our Chinese Garden, even though most of the funding was raised by our Society.
So far our Society has spent almost a million dollars to develop and construct our garden. Phase One is almost finished. The challenge is how to make our garden a landmark of our City. To complete our project, we need to add at least two other architectural elements: the Main Gate and the Nine Dragon Wall; each costs about $250,000. However, it can be done by stages, depending on funding.
Without a doubt, we need lead donors. For $250,000 to $500,000, any organization can join us in embarking on our Community Investment Endeavour. To become a partner of the City of Edmonton and our Society will put us all in a win-win situation. Our Society will get the financial support we need; your organization will gain a permanent spot in the most popular part of the City. Mayor Bill Smith once said: "When you are in partnership with somebody, if the other party paid more than half, it has to be a good deal." Not to mention more than two-thirds of the project is already paid for.
To make up for their generosity, we make sure that all our donors are properly recognized. Details of our lead donors recognition package is negotiable; we promise to be flexible and generous.
Without a doubt, our Chinese Garden is a worthwhile project, and the Edmonton Chinese Garden Society is a well-run entity. Now that we have almost completed Phase One, the Chinese Garden is a sure thing. Once it is opened to the public, Edmontonians will realize that our garden project is going to benefit a great number of people for many, many generations to come. As for those, who have participated in this development, they will get what they deserve, because this is a high profiled project, and has a lasting effect on those who come to visit. If they like our Garden, they will remember its generous donors as well.
#2101, 10135 Saskatchewan Drive
Tel: (780)432-1792 or (780)907-3962