Joseph A. Ghiz Memorial Park header

History page header Once upon a time, there was a very lonely park situated on the corner of Kent, Edward and Grafton Streets. Now this park's name was simply Grafton Street East and it is located at one of the main entrances to Charlottetown, just off the Hillsborough Bridge.

It had a swing set and a slide but very seldom did you see anyone enjoying the park. This park had no picnic tables, park benches or gazebo welcoming the Confederation Trail walker, mom grandparent or tourist. It lacked all the amenities that would attract families and, in particular, children and youth.

As it so happened, IODE was celebrating a very special 100th birthday in 2000. Lake of Shining Waters IODE had a vision and a dream they would adopt the park and change its name to the Joseph A. Ghiz Memorial Park.

This would be IODE's special gift to the community. It would become known as the Lake of Shining Waters IODE Centennial Millennium Citizenship Project, honouring former premier Joseph A. Ghiz, who was noted as a passionate defender of Canada.

Mayor George MacDonald, city council and the Parks and Recreation department were very excited about the IODE proposal and welcomed Lake of Shining Waters IODE as a community partner.

Park in early stages The fundraising began in 1999 and the gazebo, sign, IODE word flowerbed, two picnic tables and planters were donated to the park in 2000. The chapter wanted to enhance the park as a beautiful memorial tribute but needed a major fundraiser.

A rather innovative thinker in the group, Marlene Bryenton, came up with the idea of an inscribed "Brick of Honour" campaign. It was decided there had to be a brick for everyone's budget: $25, $250 and $2500. This campaign was launched during the International Year of the Volunteer. A brochure was prepared which suggested that you could honour a volunteer, volunteer organization, corporate company, staff member, friend, family member or memorial tribute.

A 30-second CBC television public service announcement was produced, promoting the park and the Brick of Honour campaign. The chapter's 2001 float in the Gold Cup and Saucer Parade advertised to thousands the Joseph A. Ghiz Memorial Park's Brick of Honour Fundraiser.

Additionally, the IODE initated a phone campaign, contacting companies for corporate brick sponsorship.

A major letter writing campaign was launched to every province and territory. The brick that caught the most attention was the Yukon $2500 brick which stated, "Honouring a great Canadian for his tireless work in building national unity."

Brick from Yukon

A Communities in Bloom brick was donated in the corporate section around the fountain. There are bricks from almost every province in Canada which encompasses the IODE vision to improve the physical and emotional health of all Canadians within a unified country.

The IODE chapter approached the provincial government for funding. The province agreed to donate $25,000 to the park project if the city matched it. Lake of Shining Waters IODE, with just 19 members, had to raise $30,000 in money or services in kind.

The IODE chapter planted the seed and now this fairytale park has become a reality and is valued at approximately $160,000.

Project coordinator Marlene Bryenton lobbied for various grants with which to purchase trees and shrubs. Over $10,000 was received for this purpose. Four stately 25-foot flagpoles were installed displaying the Canadian, provincial, city and IODE flags.

The following resolution was passed unanimously by city council at its regular monthly meeting in October 2001: "Whereas the Lake of Shining Waters IODE carried out extensive enhancements to the Joseph A. Ghiz Memorial Park over the past two summers; be it resolved that the mayor and council for the city of Charlottetown recognize the Lake of Shining Waters IODE for their leadership in bringing together the necessary resources to revitalize the Joseph A. Ghiz Memorial Park."

What makes this story very special is that Marlene was undergoing chemo treatments for breast cancer during the construction. In spite of this, she was at the park every day, overseeing the project.


She wheeled and dealed with the best of them, trying to stay within budget. Everything from truckloads of fill to backhoes were donated to help the IODE chapter. The local greenhouse agreed to a special half-price deal on flowers.

Vesey's Seeds supplied the charity with over 10,000 tulip bulbs for the IODE word flowerbed.

The coordinator had an eye for bargains and got enough pisa stone donated to build the fountain and raised flowerbed. She enticed a friend to sharpen his pencil for the unique slate pathway. Her idea was not to copy other parks using bricks. The slate pathway forms the memorial tribute area to Mr. Ghiz and offers wheelchair accessibility.

The budget was tight, so Marlene decided to whip up some deals with local contractors and suppliers. She came up with the "Brick Barter" concept. She offered clay, corporate and endowment inscribed bricks bartering with local paving, electrical, architect, drafting, audio visual, advertising, and plumbing contractors.

Brick campaign

For instance, The Guardian supplied $2500 in advertising for the Brick of Honour Campaign in exchange for a $2500 endowment brick.

The park would have lighting, water fountains and a double basketball area, thanks to some great negotiating and the old tried but true bartering system.

The octagon shape of the gazebo appealed to Marlene, so the fountain area and picnic tables were designed using the octagon. The fountain has a little girl and boy on it, symbolizing the mission of IODE, which is a Canadian women's charitable organization which improves the quality of life for children, youth and those in need, through educational, social service and citizenship programs.

Since Joseph Ghiz was a former premier of Prince Edward Island, it was decided that a very special raised shrub bed would be built, depicting the P.E.I. coat of arms and a memorial arch was erected at the entrance of the park.

Lake of Shining Waters IODE also agreed to perpetually help with the maintenance of the park. Over a thousand dollars of annuals were purchased to bring magnificent colour to the flowerbeds in 2002. The bricks were bringing in some revenue as well as the Smitty's meal ticket coupons but never enough to hire professional landscapers.

The problem was soon solved when Marlene suggested they approach Katimavik. Since April 2002, Marlene had been going to the park once a week with four Katimavik participants edging, weeding and planting flowers. She also enlisted the help of the local Adventure Group.

Garden in early stages She personally worked with and supervised the group of young people. Hundreds of pounds of mulch were wheelbarrowed to the new flowerbeds that summer. It seemed like a ton of weeds were pulled and a mountain of annuals were planted.

On occasion, as many as 10 young people from Katimavik and the local Adventure Group were helping in the park. Lake of Shining Waters IODE has implemented a novel way to thank all the Katimavik young people. Inscribed bricks with their name and province were installed in the park as a lasting legacy of their contribution. After Katimavik left, Marlene arranged for the provincial inmates to come weekly.

There was a massive amount of publicity from all forms of the media surrounding the plans to enhance the park. A retired horticulture worker living in Charlottetown contacted the IODE chapter and offered to prune all the trees, free of charge.

Tools were provided by Lake of Shining Waters IODE and the Dr. Marlene Bryenton Ghiz Park Fund.

Many hours of volunteer work and fundraising went in to this park, now dubbed a "Diamond in the Rough." It was officially opened on September 21, 2001 but it was not completed until the summer of 2002.

As a special tribute to Marlene Bryenton, the Ghiz family presented her with roses and the mayor honoured her with the Mayor's Award for volunteer community service. The citation read, "Her latest project is the Joe Ghiz Memorial Park on Grafton St. East where she has taken one of the most under-developed parks in the City and has turned it into one of the most beautiful parks."

This would not have been possible without the support of parks superintendent, Nancy McMinn. Nancy gave direction and guidance to Marlene throughout the entire project. The city's professional horticulture workers also provided their expertise.

One of the most innovative aspects of this project which appealed to Nancy was the maintenance commitment of the charity.

The signature landmark Victorian style cedar gazebo was destroyed by vandalism and had to be removed from the park. It was later replaced by a wrought iron gazebo. Money was fundraised by the Dr. Marlene Bryenton Ghiz Park Fund. Fundraisers included a gala dinner at the Culinary Institute and Christmas Tree and Birdhouse Silent Auctions. A major contributor to help replace the gazebo was the Cotton Trust Fund for Public Parks. 

Fundraisers and new gazebo

The novel Leaf of Honour Campaign at Superstore saw customers purchasing maple leaves for $1, $2 and $5 in support of the park.

To ensure annual revenue for ongoing maintenance of the park, Lake of Shining Waters IODE sells Smitty's $10 gift certificates and the IODE receives $5 for each one sold.

Lake of Shining Waters IODE won first prize in the community effort category of the Communities in Bloom Contest in August 2002. As a special note, the Communities in Bloom flag was flown in the park to mark the participation in the contest.

Fence and gate

Lake of Shining Waters IODE divested themselves of the park in February 2006. The Dr. Marlene Bryenton Ghiz Park Fund was established in February 2006 and basically took over the park maintenance and fundraising from the IODE chapter.

The Provincial Adolescent School selected the Joseph A. Ghiz Memorial Park as their community project under the supervision of Marlene who worked with the students. Students and teachers came to the park one to three days per week to assist  with the edging, weeding, mulching, composting, planting, litter control and painting. Thousands of spring bulbs donated by Vesey's were planted by the students each fall. The students quickly learned the concept of teamwork, employable skills and what it means to give back to community. 

In 2009, the Dr. Marlene Bryenton Ghiz Park Fund launched the Friendship Fence Project. Companies were asked to sponsor a wrought iron post for $1000. This fundraising enabled the Dr. Marlene Bryenton Ghiz Park Fund to replace the wooden fence and gates at all three entrances to the park.

Joe Ghiz Park today

On any given day in the summer, the "Ghiz" park is buzzing with activity. Hundreds of children from the local area, daycares, summer camps and Boys and Girls Club visit the park on a regular basis. Many senior citizens, trail walkers and bicyclists enjoy a relaxing moment in the beauty of this newly-fashioned "Diamond in the City" which will provide a safe, green space for many years to come.

Marlene, Premier Robert Ghiz and Mayor Clifford Lee
Marlene Bryenton, Premier Robert Ghiz, his daughter Julie, and Mayor Clifford Lee
at Marlene's retirement party in June 2010.

The City of Charlottetown held a retirement party for Marlene in June 2010, acknowledging ten years as volunteer project coordinator. The whole community was invited to attend. There was lots of food, great entertainment and speeches thanking Marlene and all those that supported the park in various ways.

Marlene, Premier Robert Ghiz and Mayor Clifford Lee
Premier Robert Ghiz, Marlene Bryenton, Project Coordinator
and Deputy Mayor of Charlottetown, Stu MacFadyen

flowers by new iron posts
The Dr. Marlene Bryenton Ghiz Park Fund purchased the four hanging pot containers that will show case the beautiful flowers each year. The Fund will pay for the hanging flower pots beginning in 2015 estimated at $400 annually.

The sign was erected in November 2011 near the Confederation Trail, corner of Grafton and Edward Streets. The sign includes text about Premier Joseph A. Ghiz as well as information on the development of the park. Special thanks to Province of Prince Edward Island for financial assistance and to Beacon Signs.

In the summer of 2014, the Confederation Trail was complete. Ghiz Park, which is one of the origin points of the Trail, was featured in The Guardian the day after it opened.

The Guardian

Click to enlarge.

stone pathway

Improvements were made to the slate pathway in November 2014. There has been an ongoing problem of grass and weeds growing between the slate pieces. At the time of installation there was no product to deter weed growth. Gator Dust is now available. Hired the original contractor, Island Grown Sod to lift the slate, remove the weeds down to the tap root, reinstall the slate and add the Gator Dust. This was done in a designated area as a test site. The Corporate Bricks were also lifted and Polymeric Sand was added in the cracks. This was made possible by the Dr. Marlene Bryenton Ghiz Park Fund.
If the Gator Dust works this project will be continued as money becomes available from the Dr. Marlene Bryenton Ghiz Park Endowment Fund maintained by the Community Foundation.

2016 sign

In 2015 the Dr. Marlene Bryenton Ghiz Park Fund provided:
- flowers for the four flower pots on the wrought iron posts at the entrance to the park near the picnic shelter
- removed, refurbished and repainted the original Joseph A. Ghiz Memorial Park sign
- continued to do maintenance on the slate pathway (weed control)


The old fashioned picnic held June 17, 2017 from 11am-1pm was a major success with approximately 150 people attending. Most people had their lunch before a shower of rain hit. The volunteers moved the food to the picnic shelter and everyone was comfortable. The lunch included a sandwich, chocolate milk, potato chips, banana and a cupcake. The Canada 150 banner was on display as well as the Canada 150 flag on the Joseph A. Ghiz Memorial Park flagpole. Music was provided by Bobby Doyle.

Special thanks to the picnic volunteers, Marjorie Matthews who came in period costume, Sean Casey's MP office who supplied 150th Anniversary souvenirs and flag. Also thanks to the City of Charlottetown for supplying the picnic tables and installing the recycle bins.

The three steel recycle bins were installed in the Joseph A. Ghiz Memorial Park. The plaques reflected the following text: Canada 150th Anniversary, Recycle Bin and Picnic Project - This initiative is made possible by the Community Fund for Canada150th, a collaboration between the Community Foundation of Prince Edward Island, the Government of Canada, City of Charlottetown, Holland College and the Dr. Marlene Bryenton Ghiz Park Fund, June 17, 2017.

There was an enormous amount of publicity including CBC TV Compass story, The Guardian newspaper story, photos, Volunteer Ad,  Face Book, 105.5 Radio Cruiser, Holland College Blog, and CBC Compass Community spot..

This event recognized the historic birthday and the installation of recycle bins manufactured by Holland College welding students in Georgetown.

Canada 150

Canada 150

Canada 150

CBC News: 'A lasting legacy': Welding students build wrought iron recycling bins

The Guardian: Holland College students build recycling bins for Charlottetown park

The Joseph A. Ghiz Memorial Park is a community effort in the truest sense with all money for the park enhancements were raised by Lake of Shining Waters IODE and the Dr. Marlene Bryenton Ghiz Park Fund.