GBHS supports Neighbourwoods North plan to 'naturalize' Owen Sound hospital site

Story Credit: Owen Sound Sun Times

Grey Bruce Health Services Owen Sound hospital.
Grey Bruce Health Services Owen Sound hospital.

A local group's proposal to “naturalize” Grey Bruce Health Services' 30-acre Owen Sound hospital site with trees, shrubs and gardens has begun to take root.

Neighbourwoods North members Lloyd Lewis and Dr. Gord Edwards, a retired Owen Sound physician, recently presented the group's 10-year plan to the hospital corporation's administrators, who expressed their support for the project.

Once a memorandum of understanding is signed by both parties, Lewis said the group will meet with hospital staff to finalize a plan for 2018.

“From there, we will focus on applying for grant funding to hopefully get started planting this spring,” he said in an interview Monday.

“Our pitch was that we first focus on the north-west corner and work on the driveway entering into the emergency department and lining it with trees, perhaps flowering crab apple, and also starting to populate the empty field strategically with trees to reduce the wind effect that is there now.”

Lewis said Neighbourwoods North will spend the first four years planting trees and shrubs and creating gardens on the property.

Stage 2 of the plan, which is to unfold in years five to seven, would involve creating pathways around the hospital grounds, with connections to the nearby Residential Hospice of Grey Bruce's Chapman House.

The final stage proposes erecting an outdoor classroom and perhaps a monument on the history of health care in Grey-Bruce.

Grey Bruce Health Services president and CEO Lance Thurston said the group's plan will benefit the environment, the community and the hospital site as well as GBHS's staff and patients.

“We have a site here that could certainly use some TLC. We, as a hospital corporation, don't have a whole lot of money to put towards this sort of thing so the fact that a community group would step up and offer to help beautify the grounds and help pay for the cost of maintaining a new landscaping is fantastic,” he said Monday.

Thurston said it's long been established that there's a connection between health and well-being and the natural environment.

“That's why the Ontario government for years had their large sanitariums and mental health facilities out on large tracts of land with nice landscaping, which, in fact, this site is actually a remnant of that,” he said.

Lewis, a retired high school outdoor education teacher who has been involved in several initiatives over the years to “green” communities, moved with his wife Rhiannon to Owen Sound about three years ago.

He formed Neighbourwoods North, which has a mandate of helping Owen Sound to create and maintain green public spaces.

Lewis has said the group will be looking to target the greening of school grounds, parks, boulevards and other spaces.

One of its first major undertakings has been developing the plan to pitch to GBHS officials to enhance the Owen Sound hospital site.

It also proposed to the Owen Sound Field Naturalists that Neighbourwoods North become part of their organization.

Lewis said the organization approved of the merger, which he said will allow Neighbourwoods North to be covered by insurance and fundraise.

He said Neighbourwoods North hopes to apply for grant funding by the end of January for the Owen Sound hospital project.

Anyone interested in joining Neighbourwoods North can call Lloyd Lewis at 226-256-8804 or e-mail

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