What has the Mayor's GCAT advisory group unearthed now?
I love gardening. Two weeks ago I put on my rubber boots and cleaned up my garden beds, which were in pretty sad shape after successive snow dumps this winter. Broken branches on bushes needed pruning, some of the less hardy perennials needed to be dug out.
Each Spring I can't wait for the weather to warm up on weekends so I can get my shovel and start digging. I'm unapologetic when I can't get dirt out from under my fingernails. I can while away weekends in my garden without complaint.
I think everyone should be able to garden who wants to. As neighbourhoods become more dense, and inhabitants lose backyards in favour of condo living, it's a good thing that Vancouver has policies supporting the development of community gardens.
Mayor Gregor Robertson's high profile GCAT group met last week and they snapped into action with a Quick Start initiative. Their brainchild is to devote part of the lawn at Vancouver City Hall as a community garden. In what appears to be a shot at City staff, Mayor Robertson says in today's release from his office:
“Converting a portion of the under-used City Hall lawn for gardening is something that should have happened a long time ago for a city that likes to talk about being ‘green’.”
Notwithstanding that the City has enormous resources already poured into green initiatives including gardens, and the Park Board has a whole citywide team devoted to community gardens already, the Mayor is eager to put his stamp on the whole community garden thing.
“If we want Vancouver to be a truly sustainable city, City Hall needs to lead the way,” said Mayor Robertson. “By converting part of the City Hall lawn into a community garden, Vancouver is walking the talk when it comes to producing local food.”
Never mind that it is still winter. I'm sure that the Mayor's Office will figure out a way to show sod being turned on City Hall property as an important step towards a greener future. By the way, the forecast is for snow this weekend.
The Park Board policy framework for community gardens is pretty explicit on how they should be implemented around town. This is because unless there is a nearby community to support it, the gardens become the domain of rats and buttercup infestations.
If it is determined that park land is the most suitable site for community gardens, the following conditions will apply:
- The garden is developed at no cost to the Board, except that prior to the first season, the Board will, at its cost, prepare the site for planting by removing grass, ploughing the soil and adding compost. A community consultation process indicates neighbourhood support for the garden.
- A garden site plan must be drawn up and approved by the General Manager. The plan must include the layout of the plots and indicate any proposed structures or fences.
- A non-profit society agrees to develop and operate the gardens according to a users agreement which will specify the term of use, management responsibilities, user fees and access procedures...
The policy document, drafted in 2005, is pretty explicit. Community gardens should only be put in place after a proper community consultation process that shows an interest in supporting the garden.
Unless GCAT board members Mike Harcourt and David Suzuki were banging on doors around 12th & Cambie since their February 25th meeting, it's probable that there has been no community consultation on the garden idea.
Another important detail of the Park Board community garden policy is that there is no cost to the City for building and maintaining the garden itself. The City will only remove sod from the site and do basic soil prep such as dropping off compost. SPEC are listed as partners on the venture, so we better hope that taxpayer dollars aren't being shoveled into this little project with City staff planting lettuce.
It's funny how this is being labeled as a "Quick Start" initiative. The gardener in me bets that it won't be until the end of May before anything is planted.