By Jenn Watt
Signs directing visitors to the Story Tree Wishing Well and The Nest are strewn on the ground at the entrance of the Enchanted Forest at Abbey Gardens left broken following vandalism to the children’s play area that happened sometime over the weekend.
A repurposed slide also known as the Enchanted Rapids was dislodged from its place cracked. The art gallery had its plastic canvasses ripped. Stained glass stepping stones were smashed. Books from a lending library were torn and left in pots of muddy water. Garbage was found lying around and a glass jar was shattered among carefully painted rainbow rocks in the centre of the forest.
Staff at Abbey Gardens are saddened and perplexed by the damage done to a place that not only served as a venue for children to play but was also created by children.
“There’s eight children’s play areas that were designed by our home-school group and then implemented by them as well” said Heather Reid operations director. “They help with maintenance too when they’re on site. It’s been a really neat area just to have it designed by kids and used by kids.”
The Enchanted Forest was officially opened in June of 2017. An article from the Haliburton Ech o at the time includes a photo with eight smiling kids participating in a ribbon cutting with adults cheering from the background. The caption says the space was created as a welcoming place for people of all ages to create think and express themselves.
Until it can be rehabilitated it is closed to the public.
“We’ll have to do a major clean” said Irene Heaven education co-ordinator. “There’s a broken jar over on the rocks [to be cleaned up] … we’ll have to repaint signs and just pick up all the broken stuff and then replace what’s been destroyed. Even though a lot of it is recycled you still have to gather it you have to string it up. A lot of the music stuff it’s old pots and pans or copper piping but if it’s gone you still have to find it and redo it.”
Heaven said she hadn’t been in touch with the students who created the Enchanted Forest yet.
“They come back next week so I get to tell them on their first day back” she said.
A post on Abbey Gardens’ Facebook page has garnered support from visitors. One person commented: “We visited over the summer and our boys loved it. I work at a school in Ohio and your entire model is incredibly compelling for our school. I hope you are able to rebuild quickly and restore this amazing place.”
Another wrote: “I’m so sorry. It is such a beautiful and magical place that you have created.”
It’s likely that the vandalism happened sometime between the afternoon of Saturday Sept. 7 and Sunday Sept. 8. A staff member discovered the mess when she came to check on the site Sunday evening.
Three new garden gnomes were also found around the same time placed at the base of the Enchanted Forest directional sign. Reid and Heaven said they’re not sure if these gnomes were added by the same person or people who vandalized the property.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Heather Reid at email@example.com .