For weeks, teddies have shown a flagrant disregard for social distancing by gathering in large numbers in a Samford park.
They’ve been picnicking, using playground equipment, climbing trees and even reading books in this quiet pocket of bushland off Mary Ring Drive in Samford Village.
Many locals have wondered how they got there and who invited them. Well, we set out to solve the mystery.
Some Facebook sleuthing revealed the trail was started by the Mitterman family, and further investigation has determined it was an idea hatched by eight-year-old Grace.
She and her parents Sean and Susie created two signs, one at each end of the footpath that meanders through the park, inviting everyone to join in a bear hunt for the 29 laminated bear pictures and couple of fluffy bears they had hidden throughout.
The sign said: “Please be warned. Bears live in these woods. But don’t worry, they won’t harm anyone. As you walk through these woods, feel free to try and find as many as you can. Look left, look right, look up, and look down.
“Please don’t feed our bears though … and don’t take them away from their home here. But if you want to make some bears at home, to bring here and make friends with our bears, they can find a home here also”.
And so it began, one by one more bears joined in the fun. Some even brought swings, seesaws and monkey bars with them. There were big bears, little bears, and famous bears (we’re looking at you, Winnie!). Dozens have made themselves at home to the delight of local children, visitors and their families.
It’s been a ray of sunshine in the COVID-19 lockdown darkness that brought a community together, while they were apart.
They love what’s happened and never could have imagined the way it has been embraced by the community.
Grace likes to walk through the park at least once a week to see what has been added, and to read a book at the ‘Beary Cute Books Library’. It’s a hutch containing books, with a teddy theme, for children to read while they’re there.
“Every time we come down, we find something new that has been contributed,” Sean says.
“People have gone crazy with it. There are some things I look at and think, ‘I could never make anything like that’.”
He’s referring to the teddy playground and book hutch, which just happen to be Grace’s favourite additions.
So, what gave Grace the idea?
“It was just because we were inspired … people wanted to put them (bears) outside their houses but because they were way up there and where people didn’t go, we decided to make a bear walk where people do go,” Grace explains.
Resident Wendy Nielsen lives just around the corner and walks through the area regularly. She was even part of a bushcare group that regenerated and cleaned up the area for 10 years.
She loves that the community has found a way to make the area their own during these tough times.
“People have had so much joy out of it. For the children, it will be disappointing when the bears have to go. They will disintegrate and will need to be removed at some stage,” Wendy says.
“It’s come from a time when everyone has come together. From my place, I can hear children squealing with delight and see grown-ups having a look even without their children. It takes them back to their childhood.
“Every day it’s escalated and brought so much joy. One of the bears even dropped in by parachute. It really has been good fun and it’s been ever-changing.”
Wendy would love to see a permanent installation that remembers the children’s art and teddy bears created.
She’d love each of the drawings and bears to be photographed and used to create a patchwork design that is then transferred on to a huge old-fashioned-style all-weather sofa or bench. Her vision is for this to be installed near the middle of the walkway “for children and adults to sit in the environment and enjoy the space and enjoy a colourful reminder of fun through adversity”.
Wendy says people would be able to look at the bench and remember “that time in 2020 when we all had to stay close to home and we all created this teddy bear trail”.