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Daily Dose — New Denver’s Kohan Reflection Garden Celebrates 30 Years

Garden Coordinator Nicky Blackshaw is joined by four long time volunteers — Moonbow Rutkowsky, Margaret Hartley, Nicky Blackshaw, Barb Yeomans and Ray Nikkel. Nikkel has been involved since day one and Barb since before the garden officially opened. — Submitted photo

The outdoor anniversary event that had over four hundred people in attendance, ran from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. with activities for people for all ages.

“We had a number of different artists performing, a lavender distillation display, an aikido demonstration, several different vendors, and watercolour classes. The mayor said a few words. We had food vendors as well. It was a pretty jam-packed day,” says Blackshaw.

The garden’s inspiration goes back to 1942, when the Canadian government detained and dispossessed more than ninety percent of Japanese Canadians, some 21,000 people, living in British Columbia. They were detained under the War Measures Act and forcibly interned for the remainder of the Second World War.

The government sold their homes and businesses to pay for their detention. The camp in New Denver was one of ten Canadian internment camps located on the site of “The Orchard.”

The original buildings, period artifacts and interpretive displays can be visited at New Denver’s Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre, designated a National Historic Site of Canada since 2007.

One of the main reasons to celebrate what Blackshaw calls this “Horticultural gem in the West Kootenays” is to recognize the decades of service by volunteers.

“Coming weekly and taking care of the garden, which is a living work of art, requires constant maintenance and upkeep, and it looks the way it does largely because of the volunteers,” says Blackshaw.

“Some of the volunteers have been involved from day one, for thirty years.”

Some of the thirty-year volunteers were in attendance on Sunday.

“We have two of our original board members who are still living in the valley and involved in the garden today, Ray Nikkle and Bay Herrmann, so we did a little celebration for those two,” says Blackshaw. “Ray is a master gardener. He designed the garden.”

Volunteers also run the board of directors, plan special events, do administration and fundraising. Many community members come out and pitch in when they can. Still, the dedicated volunteers looking after the garden are approximately a dozen, says Blackshaw:

“It’s a lot of work for a handful of people.”

The Kohan’s original teahouse structure was built as an outdoor meeting place by the Japanese-Canadian community.

The Japanese Flowering Cherry Trees were the original trees planted by the Funjinkai Society after the Second World War as a gift to the community.

Only two of these revered trees remain in the village today. In 1990, the entrance gate was built, intended to be a place of sanctuary and transition where one leaves the outer world moving to an inner space of peace and tranquility.

From 1990 to 1991, a large three-tiered recirculating pond was built by volunteers, just in time for the grand opening in 1992.

“As much as the garden demands from our amazing and dedicated volunteer base, we also wouldn't exist without donations,” says Blackshaw.

The society recently got a grant to develop a website, KohanReflectionGarden.ca.

“It’s an important part of the New Denver community, and also it is a fantastic venue for special events, outdoor weddings, or bird watching or doing yoga in the park," says Blackshaw.

"We’re always trying to have something going on in the garden for the community. It is a free public place, and we invite people to consider the garden for their events."

The anniversary celebration was a great time to have a demonstration by local members of the Martial Arts Club. — Submitted photo