First impressions of a town matter, says Ellaine Hawrylak. It is why she was so upset by the eyesore off Pacific Avenue that once greeted visitors to Maple Creek.
Unkempt and garbage-strewn, the patch of ground near the railway tracks was surely enough to deter anyone from putting down roots in the community.
Rather than complain, she decided to do something about it. She told husband, Gordie, about her vision of creating a public park, a green space full of flowers and trees where people could relax and have picnics.
Although Gordie likened the vision to a “cotton-picking nightmare”, he shared his wife’s aspirations, and the couple set to work, getting the rest of the community on board.
Garbage was cleaned up, a fence built, and garage sales held to raise money for flowers, planters, trees, rock, and an extension to the fence.
Ellaine spoke of her vision during the grand opening last Saturday of Hawrylak Park. She and Gordie cut a ribbon as the covering was removed from a sign declaring “welcome to Hawrylak Park”. The couple were flanked by Michelle McKenzie, the Mayor, and Cara Teichroeb, a Town Councillor appointed to the Communities in Bloom committee.
After the ribbon-cutting, “Hawrylak Park’ cup cakes were handed out. Many people attended the ceremony next to the Farmer’s Market, which was bustling with shoppers.
Formerly Land of Living Skies Park, the renaming was approved by Mayor and Town Council in November 2020 as a mark of appreciation for Ellaine’s 33 years as a Town Councillor.
McKenzie applauded the efforts involved in turning a blight on the community into a beauty spot.
“I can’t explain how much the Town appreciates what you have done,” McKenzie told Ellaine.
Recounting the challenges in tidying up the area, Ellaine told how floodwater swept away rocks at the site.
“All my rock had gone to Winnipeg,” she said.
The rocks were soon replaced as the community rallied after the flood.
Ellaine spoke of her pride in living in Maple Creek.
“It’s a great place to be, a great place to work, a great place to live,” she said.