Meet Me At The Green
by Cara Williams photography by Clay Dolan
First settled in 1842, Creemore was once a sleepy stop on the Hamilton and North-Western Railway. Derived from the Gaelic term “croí mór”, meaning big heart, Creemore has lived up to its name as an abundantly welcoming community—one that is proud of its history and takes care to preserve its heritage.
The Village Green project began with a conversation between Tony Arrell, Stuart Lazier and Judi Parker from
the Creemore Horticultural Society. The trio recognized an opportunity to create a shared outdoor park connecting the pre-existing Station on the Green and horticultural garden, if they utilized a vacant property owned by Toronto Dominion (TD) Bank. The Creemore Community Foundation was officially founded in 2019, with a mission to: “Strengthen and enhance the heritage and beauty of the Village of Creemore, in the Township of Clearview.” Their primary goal is to honour the 180- year history of the Village as well as its architectural heritage. Their first order of business; the Village Green project.
The Foundation approached TD Bank to see if they would consider either selling the property or donating it for the purpose of an expanded park. TD generously agreed to the latter. “Four years ago, the TD Bank agreed to donate its closed property to the newly created Creemore Community Foundation—an act of incredible generosity,” explains Tony Arrell, co-founder of the Creemore Community Foundation. The community was inspired. “We’ve had [more than] 300 different private donors. Of those 23 were what we call Founders who gave $100,000 or more. In total we raised around $4 million. This community came together and, with the vision of local landscape architect, Ines Bite and support from the Horticultural Society and Clearview Council, developed a plan for this wonderful space. The Village Green will be a game changer for our community and your families will be able to enjoy this wonderful space for many years.”
The Creemore Village Green—a connector, place-maker and landmark— was officially unveiled in late summer. An active hub, gathering space, entertainment venue and community centre, the Village Green showcases the unique inclusiveness of this community.
Husband and wife team Shawn Kelly and Renee McMaster Kelly of Natural Blends Landscaping had a hand in nearly every facet of the project. Born and raised in Creemore, Shawn had intimate knowledge of the property, having spent time there throughout his youth. “We were involved in every stage of the project,” explains Shawn. “From unloading furniture to digging the groundwork for the concrete. Renee is a certified horticulturalist and we call her ‘The Finisher’. We did it all, and we’re very proud of the result. Our teenage sons also got to work with us on this project. When I was their age I was hanging out in this park so it was amazing to see this come to fruition.”
A 16 foot tall art deco pylon marks the entrance to the Village Green. The industrial signpost was commissioned by Jayce Fox/ Shane Durnford Studios and resembles an early 20th century locomotive lantern. From here an interlocking stone path follows the line of the original railway, leading to the Station on the Green—a replica train station that was completed in 2000. Nine inlaid granite markers (akin to railway ties) tell the history of the land, beginning with an Indigenous land acknowledgement. A splashpad and ping-pong table provide entertainment for younger visitors (and the young at heart), while a covered stage (designed to resemble a train platform) features professional audio and visual connections. The park’s lawns and lush gardens are managed by the Creemore Horticultural Society, and wooden platforms protect the park’s original crab- apple trees. Several landmarks have been refreshed and repositioned, including the Village water-fountain, which was restored and placed on a new base. Ernest Herzig’s sculpture entitled Harmony has also been reinstalled in the park, as has Ralph Hicks’ Dancing Children statue. An additional stone walkway connects to the cenotaph, library, jail (aka the “little-lockup”) and the Creemore Log Cabin (slated for demolition, this 1870s cabin was relocated to the heart of Creemore’s heritage district in 2011).
Village Green Project Manager Abbey Scott has been visiting Creemore since childhood. “I grew up in Collingwood,
and I remember coming to Creemore when I was a kid. Back then there wasn’t much for children to do apart from the farmers markets. The idea behind building this space was for the townspeople to have a space for everyone to enjoy—to have picnics, have meetings [there is free Wi-Fi in the park] and play. The park is lit nicely at nighttime and it will host events and concerts. The drive behind this whole project was to connect the community as well as bring people to the area.”
Throughout the planning phase the community contributed insights and vision for the Village Green through five public meetings attended by more than 650 people over a 10-month period. In addition, community leaders participated in two meetings and provided constructive comments to ensure the design met specific needs. “We had 60 volunteers help with the community reviews, design, construction and opening of the Creemore Village Green,” says Stuart Lazier, co-founder and Director of the Creemore Community Foundation. “Plus, we used 80 percent local trades and employees to build the park. The objective from the beginning was to help both our community and our Mill Street businesses by creating a vibrant Creemore Village Green that would be the heart of Creemore!” Future plans for the park include live concerts and plays, as well as car shows, farmers markets and of course a quiet place for reflection and relaxation.
“When we were taking the boarding down before the grand opening people were already there, waiting to walk in,” says Shawn Kelly. “I’ve been by the park several times since its completion. There are people there from early in the morning until late at night. This is all thanks to the generous donors and the people of Creemore who made this happen.”
The Creemore Community Foundation and the Township of Clearview have an agreement that allows the Foundation manage the Village Green for the next 20 years. Ivy Martin was hired as Program Manager—her primary responsibility will be to organize events, publicize activities and work with various community organizations to support their goals.
Today, Creemore is thriving. The Village Green—a complimentary anchor for the Mill St. businesses—is undoubtedly the heart of the community, and inspiration for future cultural, artistic and economic events. A true community achievement, this project was made possible thanks to continued generous donations.
To find out more, or to donate, please go to creemorecommunityfoundation.ca