By Nancy Varekamp & Dan Werle | CNA Media Team
What began as a weekly visit to a “gnome tree” on Ainsworth Street has become an activity that is now spreading across Concordia and Portland.
Mark Soasey and three-year-old daughter Adya always stop to admire the gnome-size door within a nook of the tree’s roots. It’s adorned with little treasures from other admirers. Their visits not only add some fun to their walks, but also became an interactive pastime that affords social distance.
“My daughter would always bring a gift of her own to leave for the resident gnome,” he reported. Never seeing the miniature, fictional creature who lives inside doesn’t seem to deter her.
Mark and Adya began providing housing to more gnomes, along with treasure exchanges for children. Together, they have decorated five trees so far, and have identified several other pre-existing sites.
“Because of my experience in woodworking, fashioning the wooden doors with metal knobs was a fun and relatively easy project to work on with my daughter,” Mark reported.
Behind those doors, they leave notes to the gnomes they are certain live in each tree and/or greetings to Adya’s fellow gnome tree explorers. They also fill resealable plastic bags with shells, rocks, handmade jewelry and more – items designed to be exchanged with new gifts from each explorer who discovers them.
The duo makes the effort to respect the surrounding nature during construction of the gnome trees. “We avoid any larger holes that could be used as regular habitat for animals and/or for seasonal food caches,” he pointed out.
“Instead, we attempt to select a recess only large enough to house our treasure bag and accommodate a custom-made door.”
But they didn’t stop with nearby Fernhill Park, Alberta Park and the parking strips of Concordia. Mark created PortlandGnomeTrees.com to share DIY door-building tips, invite others to create gnome trees and maintain a map that identifies their locations across the city.
He hopes to hear about existing displays and/or treasure trees to add to the map, as well as new locations created by community members.
“The gnome and faerie trees have long since been established throughout Portland and were the key inspiration behind the development of this project,” he explained. “Our goal is to continue to expand the content of the Portland Gnome Tree Map.
“This is about engaging one’s imagination while exploring nature, and reinforcing creative thinking, sharing and giving,” Mark said. “It’s a means of showing respect to the resident gnomes and fellow participants.”