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City of North Van mows labyrinth into Mahon Park

When your job typically involves tending cemeteries and mowing down huge swaths of grass on public land, you likely would jump at any opportunity for a little creative license in your life.
A pair of Cascadia Society members follow the path of a labyrinth that City of North Vancouver workers created in Mahon Park. The public is welcome to walk the path, which will be maintained throughout the summer and fall. photo Mike Wakefield, North Shore News

When your job typically involves tending cemeteries and mowing down huge swaths of grass on public land, you likely would jump at any opportunity for a little creative license in your life.

That was the response of Richard Parker when he was approached with a request to build a labyrinth into a tucked away little patch of grass in Mahon Park. 

“We don’t get asked to do creative things very often – normally it’s make sure the grass is cut and then move on to the next park,” said Parker, supervisor of the turf, trails and cemetery department for the City of North Vancouver. “We sort of jumped at the chance to do something a little bit more fun like this.”

The request came from North Vancouver’s Cascadia Society, which bills itself as a “life-sharing community serving people with special needs.”

When Parker got the green light to try a little labyrinth crafting on a small section of grass just west of the Mahon spray park, behind Fen Burdett stadium, he and his team did a little internet research and then got out some string line, made some measurements and started to mow, around and around and around.

“This was a fun project for us to be involved in for sure,” he said. “It seemed like a great idea that we could all get on board with, and try to get an underused area of the park down here at Mahon used a little bit more.”

Space limitations forced them to cut a labyrinth with only five concentric rings rather than the seven traditionally found in ancient designs, but the results are still perfect for the public and for the folks at Cascadia, said Ruth Tschannen, the society’s artistic director.

“Whenever I have come here since it was cut, I have always seen people walking it,” she said. “For our people this is a way of learning to follow a path which then eventually leads into the centre. What I like about this is it’s not here forever. It’s sort of transient.”

The labyrinth will be maintained throughout the summer and into the fall, with plans to possibly redesign and enlarge it next year. Following the maze-like path, which eventually leads to a centre circle, is a wonderful way to find peace in our fast-paced world, said Tschannen.

“In our time where everything has to be instantaneous … [this] takes you a while to get there. It’s not just a click away. You actually have to put in some effort,” she said, adding that it can even slow down young children, for a few moments at least. “I had Grade 2 students here – they just took to it. They ran first around the outside for a long time, and then they went and walked in slowly to find their way, and then on the way out they ran. And then they kept on running in and out for a whole hour.”

The Cascadia Society will be offering crafts, arts and music near the labyrinth every Thursday through July and August.

The public, however, is welcome to come and walk the labyrinth whenever they like, something which puts a smile on the faces of the parks department workers who worked a little mower magic.

“It’s great to see people using something that the city has been directly involved in and put in a park,” said Parker. “Since it’s so close to the waterpark and the kids get to be involved with it as well, and the members of the Cascadia Society, it feels like something that everybody can enjoy down here.”

And you never know exactly what you’ll discover when you reach the centre of the labyrinth.

“I came down here a couple of days ago and there was literally a naked baby sat in the middle of the labyrinth, taking in everything with her parents with huge smiles on their faces,” said Parker with a laugh. “It was a perfect sort of sunny afternoon moment.”