A New Brunswick couple, forced to move home following the wildfires in Fort McMurray, has converted part of their farmland into a corn maze.
John and Natalie Fletcher say it is a way for their family to thank those who supported them through the tough time.
John says carving out his very own corn maze has been a “back-breaking labour of love,” and a 10-year dream born out of tragedy.
“Flagging the trails, making sure they are wide enough, weeding the trails, putting in the stations, that was probably the biggest challenge,” said John.
But it was nothing compared to the challenge that brought them home in the first place.
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The couple and their two young children were among the 80,000 people forced to flee their homes when fierce wildfires ravaged through Fort McMurray in 2016.
“Our children were separated from us,” said Natalie, fighting back tears. “They were still at their daycare downtown and it was gridlocked, so it was a pretty emotional time.”
The couple moved back to their birthplace in Miramichi, where they were welcomed with open arms.
“There was a huge outcry of support for us which was really nice, especially going through a traumatic experience like that,” said John.
It’s that love and support that encouraged them stay in New Brunswick and follow their dream of building a corn maze on John’s family farmland.
“Being able to root our family here on fifth generation Fletchers is a feeling that just heals the heart,” said Natalie.
John, a mental health counsellor and Natalie, a survey engineer, struggled for years to find work at home and were forced to move west. But after the fire, their lives fell into place like a perfect puzzle.
“It was like just another big hug by our community” said John.
The Fletcher maze will open to the public over Labour Day weekend.