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Urban community garden about more than just flowers and plants

EDMONTON- In downtown Edmonton, overlooking Chinatown and the city’s core, used to sit an abandoned rail bridge. That was, until three Edmonton women came together to take back the under-utilized space.

“A lot of people use this as a pedestrian throughway, but they don’t actually stop and engage the space,” said Erin Ross, one of the women behind a new project that breathes new life in the old bridge at 97th Street and 105th Avenue.

The living bridge is an urban community garden. The vision behind the garden was to find a lost space in the heart of Edmonton, and re-design it to become a place where community members could come together.

“We found the bridge. We thought this would be perfect,” Ross said Sunday, as she finished construction on the garden in the rain.

“The vantage point of the city is kind of interesting, because you don’t really get up here and look at it here.”

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With help from a number of local businesses and many community members, Ross- along with Carmen Douville and Chelsea Boos- came up with the idea for the garden just two months ago. Their hope is that it will make Edmonton a more beautiful city and bring culture back to the area.

“I’m just very, very interested in how to make cities more liveable, how to make people become a part of their community. Because I think that’s something that’s somewhat been a bit lost,” said Douville.

It’s also a way of literally bridging the community together.

“One thing that’s very, very interesting about this particular space is, it’s exactly where three community leagues meet up; Downtown Edmonton Community League, Boyle Street Community League, and McCauley Community League,” Douville explained.

This weekend, the women’s idea came to fruition as dozens of people came together to construct and plant the garden. Daniel Anderson, a community volunteer, says the idea is a wonderful way to brighten up the neighbourhood.

“By bringing the beauty to it, everyone looks, everyone appreciates and they stop neglecting their surroundings and they start caring more.”

For Anderson, it’s also about meeting new people and getting involved in his community.

“Finding the folks who want to come together and do something for the greater good, that’s just a wonderful thing.”

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That’s exactly what the women had hoped for the garden, which consists of 21 circular beds planted with everything from flowers to fruit bushes, from tomatoes to corn.

The hope now, is that the community will take over ownership of the garden, and help care for it for years to come.

“The life of these beds is about two to three years, but we can’t do it ourselves,” Ross said. “Watering, certainly we need the community support on that, weeding, and then harvesting. So, we’re hoping that everybody comes out and helps us harvest, because there’s going to be a lot of stuff to harvest.”

“This is a community initiative. Every single Edmontonian, or anyone, can be a part of this,” Douville added.

If you’d like to sign up to help care for the garden, visit the living garden website.

With files from Jenna Bridges, Global News.