Russ Hotsenpiller

Regional district opens its first community garden

The former Maple Elementary school site has been given new life. And lots of it

The former Maple Elementary school site has been given new life. And lots of it.

The greenspace has been transformed into a spacious community park and on site, the Strathcona Regional District has created its first community garden.

The garden opened last Friday afternoon under sunny skies to a group of eager green thumbs.

Following a ribbon cutting, volunteers got busy helping Strathcona Regional District staff who were on hand to plant the first vegetables in three demonstration beds.

Area D Director Brenda Leigh said the garden will be the first piece of the transformation of Maple Park.

“It’s just wonderful,” Leigh said. “I think it’s going to be a great space for programming in the community, for corn roasts, maybe a farmer’s market. It’s  a great community gathering space.  I think this garden is the start of great things to come.”

Located at the end of Anton Road in the heart of Area D, which is south of the Campbell River city limits, Maple Park was purchased by the Strathcona Regional District from School District 72 for $225,000 after Maple Elementary was closed down.

The regional district dismantled the school building in 2005 and cleared the grounds. Shortly after, the regional district put forward a referendum to build a community hall on the grounds but it failed.

“So we re-grouped and we asked the public what they wanted to do,” Leigh said. “Maple Park garden surfaced a lot.”

And so the regional district set about creating a community garden. The garden has 14 beds, including one that will be a communal garden bed to grow food for the food bank.

The three demonstration beds include a native plant garden, a herb garden and a vegetable garden that will be tended to by regional district staff.

Michael McGregor, the regional district’s parks and facilities technician, said that as of last Friday afternoon, four garden beds were still available. The plots are free for this year and the regional district will supply the water through hoses and wands as well as tools such as wheelbarrows and shovels.

McGregor said if the garden proves to be a success, there’s room to expand.

“This is stage one, there’s still a lot of work left to do,” McGregor said. “We want to see what works and what doesn’t work and we want the gardeners to give us their suggestions. There’s also future plans for accessible beds if there’s a demand for it.”

But for now, Leigh is just happy to see the community eager to start gardening.

“It’s a huge responsibility to look after living things – I’m not so good at it,” Leigh said at last week’s opening of the garden. “I’m not much of a green thumb, but I’m really glad you’re taking on the challenge.”

For others who also don’t consider themselves gardeners, McGregor said he hopes they will still come to the garden.

“It’s a project for the whole community, not just for gardeners with a plot,” he said. “It’s open to the community during the day. If someone wants to use the picnic table (which is covered) they can come and have a picnic in the garden or they can come and do a garden walk.”