Neighbourwood North plans to begin 'naturalizing' Owen Sound hospital site in April

Story Credit: Owen Sound Sun Times

Bird's eye view of hospital planting area
This image shows the Neighbourwoods North group's four-phase plan for naturalizing the Owen Sound hospital site in 2018.

Grey Bruce Health Services has given the green light to the initial stage of a group's ambitious, multi-year plan to naturalize the Owen Sound hospital site.

Neighbourwoods North intends to embark on Phase 1 of its anticipated four-phase plan for 2018 on April 21, the day before Earth Day, group spokesperson Lloyd Lewis said Thursday.

“It will be a grove of 40 flowering crab apple trees along the road that runs east-west to the entrance of the emergency department,” he said in an interview.

The group is hopeful, he said, that GBHS will also approve phases two to four. A decision is expected late this month.

Neighbourwoods North is now seeking volunteers as well as in-kind and financial donations to help with the project. They will also be applying for grants.

“There's a great connection between healing bodies and healing minds and nature; there's been many studies on that. Right now, the hospital grounds are in need of a lot of naturalization and we'd like to see that happen,” Lewis said.

“We recognize that many times, cities and hospitals just don't have the resources to make it happen so more and more we need to acquire the services of volunteers.”

Lewis and fellow Neighbourwoods North member Dr. Gord Edwards, a retired Owen Sound physician, presented the group's 10-year plan late last year to the hospital corporation's executive, which has expressed support for the project.

During the first four years, volunteers would plants trees and shrubs and create gardens throughout the hospital site. In Years 5 to 10, “healing pathways” and other features, such as, perhaps, an outdoor classroom, would be created.

The work planned for this year is split into four phases.

For Phase 2, the group wants to plant about 80 coniferous trees to create a “living fence” along the hospital roadway that's just north of the road to the emergency department.

Phases 3 and 4 would involve planting seedlings and large trees to create small forests in the northwest corner of the hospital property, near 16th Avenue and 10th Street East.

Lewis said a donation from an anonymous donor will help to kick-start the group's plan, but more community support is needed.

GBHS spokesperson Mary Margaret Crapper said the hospital's executive has approved, in principle, Phases 2 to 4.

Final approval will be granted once GBHS confirms that the trees will not impact underground services and the plan adheres to setback requirements, height restrictions related to the nearby helipad and other considerations.

She said GBHS thinks the group's plan is “wonderful” and believes it will not only enhance the hospital grounds but benefit the health and well-being of staff and patients.

Neighbourwoods North, which Lewis founded last year, recently became part of the Owen Sound Field Naturalists.

The merger means the group can issue charitable tax receipts to people who donate to their naturalization plan.

Anyone interested in assisting Neighbourwoods North can e-mail Lloyd Lewis at

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