A park in tune with nature

As outdoor parks go, a new one in Red Deer will sound unlike any other one in Alberta. The Kiwanis Harmony Garden at Kerry Wood Nature Centre is going to be a fully accessible space where anyone can try their musicality out in natural surroundings.

As outdoor parks go, a new one in Red Deer will sound unlike any other one in Alberta.

The Kiwanis Harmony Garden at Kerry Wood Nature Centre is going to be a fully accessible space where anyone can try their musicality out in natural surroundings.

“It’s very, very cool,” said Todd Nivens, programs co-ordinator for Waskasoo Environmental Education Society.

The garden, which is to open on Oct. 2, will have a variety of permanent percussion instruments in an 1,100-sq.ft outdoor area at the nature centre.

There will be a mixture of tuned percussion, hand percussion and mallet playable percussion instruments.

The fencing that will separate from the parking lot will be tuned percussion pipes. There’s also a marimba, xylophone, and soaring amadinda (like a vertical xylophone) and then an assortment of hand-playable and mallet-playable drums, said Nivens.

Instruments will be mounted on pressure-treated wood, or steel posts, depending on the instrument.

Nivens became aware of the harmony garden idea when he took his children to one in Utah a few years ago. They played in it for hours. Park interpreters played musical hide and seek for example, where they played a sound and children had to go to one of the instruments and see if they could replicate it. In another instance, the children tried to replicate sounds they hear in nature.

It’s a nice coming together of guided interpretive learning as well as musical free play, he said. “It ties into that music as being one of the common languages of learning.”

Currently musicians and others are training the nature centre’s interpreters on how to teach music theory. A high school percussion ensemble is going to try and play a tune on the park instruments on opening day.

The accessible interactive music play space will be adjacent to the Imagination Grove nature-based playground, east of the parking lot. It will have a special surface so anyone who has mobility issues or some physical challenges, or uses power wheelchairs or scooters, will be able to get into and use the space. Grass will grow up through the surface so it will be an accessible surface that doesn’t look like one, said Nivens.

The fence around the space will be edible, including Saskatoon and raspberry shrubs, he said.

“Not only can you play in the park but you can eat the park.”

The cost of the garden is $140,000. The Kiwanis Club of Red Deer and the Twilight Homes Foundation have partnered and will fund the entire park, if necessary, Nivens said.

Recently the nature centre received a $50,000 federal grant, some of which will go to Harmony Gardens to make it accessible to everyone.

The same company that built the Imagination Grove, Beinenstock Natural Playgrounds, is building the harmony garden. Construction starts in the third week of September.

“It will be a place where people of all abilities, all cultures, all languages … come together around music,” Nivens said.

barr@bprda.wpengine.com