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Park & Tilford Gardens aims to reopen this spring

Popular community gem has been closed since November

Those hoping to escape the winter doldrums by taking a stroll through one of the North Shore’s favourite community gardens have a wait still ahead.

Since November, Park & Tilford Gardens in North Vancouver has been closed to the public.

A sign on the gardens’ front gate reads: “Due to the current pandemic, COVID-19, Park &Tilford Gardens will be closed for the winter season and reopen in the new year.”

Fans of the botanical gardens, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2019 and is home to eight-themed garden displays, have expressed their dismay the space remains closed.

North Vancouver resident and photographer Stephanie Alexandra said she was used to frequenting the gardens up to twice a week and has been frustrated at what she sees as a prolonged closure.

“I specialize in floral photography and as a person with disabilities on low income, it’s been my favourite garden for about 10 years, partly because it’s free but mostly because they’ve had a wonderful variety of flowers to enjoy during the year,” said Alexandra. “I did not expect it would be closed for so long, especially when VanDusen Gardens [in Vancouver] has managed to remain open, and other gardens have been accessible as well.”

And volunteer gardeners who exercise their green thumbs at P&T are particularly rearing to get back into the space, according to Ann Pentland, past president of the Friends of the Gardens Society.

“I’m disappointed that the garden is not open to the public,” said Pentland, who also sits on the Gardens Review Board along with representatives from the City of North Vancouver and property manager BentallGreenOak. The review board is an independent, appointed body established by the City of North Vancouver to oversee maintenance of the gardens.

Gardens to reopen this spring

However, while Pentland wants to get back into the gardens along with everybody else, she acknowledges BentallGreenOak’s commitment to safety during the pandemic, especially after a set of provincewide restrictions on gatherings and events was imposed on Nov. 19.

“The decision to close the gardens in November came from an abundance of caution that put the health and safety of our valued guests and their families first. The enclosed nature of the gardens, and the narrow pathways within, introduced challenges with social distancing that compromised adherence to the guidelines as established by our local and provincial public health authorities at that time,” said Rahim Ladha, a spokesman for BentallGreenOak, in an emailed statement.

This made perfect sense at the time considering Park & Tilford Gardens is well-known for its epic December Christmas lights display which attracts loads of visitors, but now people are wondering when they can expect to be let back in, especially with weather improving and flora nearing bloom time, said Pentland.

According to BentallGreenOak, the property manager is preparing the gardens for a spring reopening, with timing dependent on the completion of infrastructure repairs on the premises.

The repairs are “largely seasonal maintenance and general upkeep in nature,” added Ladha.

The property manager will also “be working closely with local public health officials to ensure full adherence to their guidance and any applicable orders that are in place,” he said.