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This article was published 15/12/2016 (1533 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Gimli has hired the makers of the Leo Mol Sculpture Garden to transform its Viking Park into a major tourist site, in time for the 128th Icelandic Festival and Canada’s 150th birthday next year.
"Every day, carloads of people are running out to the (Viking) statue to have their picture taken. In summer, it’s one every 10 minutes," said Chris Brown, executive director of the Icelandic Festival of Manitoba.
But then they get back into their cars and drive off because there’s nothing else to see there, he said.
The festival is developing the site into three major gardens, replete with mythic trolls and elves from Icelandic culture. There will also be pathways and a wall dedicated to the community’s history, in particular the construction of the former breakwater that protected the early settlement.
According to Icelandic folklore, trolls turn to stone in daylight. So the Storm Troll Garden will feature piles of rock with suspiciously human forms and traits. It will also feature plants that like water, as the garden area serves as a reservoir for storm runoff. Plants will include blue flag iris, prairie blazing star, rush honeysuckle, blue fox willow and red osier dogwood.
The Elf Garden will also tap into Icelandic lore but the elves will be invisible. Elf houses are the tipoff and seem destined to find their way into the garden. In Iceland, people put out beautiful, little houses for the elves to live in, said Brown.
A third garden will be the Breakwater Garden, which will go with a heritage wall.
"There’s a pathway that goes behind the Viking toward Betel (personal care) Home. It’s the worst path I’ve ever seen. It’s super skinny with rocks peeking out," said Brown. "That’s the former breakwater."
The breakwater broke down from the pounding of waves and was replaced by the existing wall of cement and stone. Much of the historic breakwater is buried by infill.
Runic alphabet symbols will be embedded in pathways and will provide instruction to anyone wanting to spell their names or other words in ancient Icelandic language, said Tim Arnason, a member of the Viking Park Legacy Campaign.
Winnipeg-based HTFC Planning & Design has designed the landscape. A request for bids for construction was issued Dec. 12.
The Icelandic Festival is working in conjunction with the RM of Gimli and Betel Home Foundation. It has raised $500,000 and is still fundraising to reach its target of $800,000 by Feb. 1, 2017. Those who donate more than $125 will receive a named space in the park, such as on a pathway stone.
The Viking statue was erected in 1967 by the Gimli Chamber of Commerce.