The Riverview Horticultural Centre Society is hoping its 19th annual Treefest at the Riverview Hospital grounds will generate even more interest in the lands than the trees on it.
The Riverview lands are in the last stages of being decommissioned from their purpose as a mental health facility and face an unknown future. The society wants to see the lands saved for mental health and addiction treatment purposes.
"It's darned important. If the government thinks that the community doesn't care about this site, we'll lose it to market housing.
There's no ifs, buts or maybes about that," said Norma Gillespie, president of the society. "When we see all these buildings not being picked up by Fraser Health, it scares us to death. They're sitting empty and deteriorating and they're still able to perform a good function and a needed one."
The society is betting the best way to generate interest is to allow people to appreciate the site on one of the hourly guided tours with arborists or the heritage building walk.
"You've got to get out there and you've got to know that site somewhat and get under those trees," Gillespie said.
"Riverview is more than just the trees. The society wants to see this site used for health purposes."
Beyond losing an important public health asset, Gillespie said she worries what will happen to the lands' valuable green space if it turns into condos and townhouses.
"Everything that is fine and good there will be lost," she said.
Treefest runs Saturday, Sept. 15 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Other attractions include children's activities and a blackberry tea in the Serenity Garden, musicians and artists, as well as displays by community groups. New to Tree Fest are bus tours guided by a retired psychiatric nurse telling his Riverview stories.
Guests can dine at food vendors on site or pack a picnic lunch. All of the events are centred around the Henry Esson Young Building.
Among the highlights for Gillespie are the ornate macramé masks made by local retired teacher David Secunda, which will be on display at Finnie's Garden.
The garden itself is looking better than it has in years thanks to the society raising the canopy of nearby trees, Gillespie said.
"I don't know of anywhere in the Lower Mainland where there is something that is so incredibly beautiful," she said.
For more information, visit www.rhcs.org/ treefest.