Chelsea Holley’s dream is coming to fruition – to fill Campbell River with community gardens.
She just started Laughing Willow Community Garden this past spring but all 19 plots were spoken for within a few months, and there’s already a waiting list.
“It’s been a success for sure,” said Holley. “I don’t think we know quite how this is going to affect the community yet, but I think it’s going to have an effect on everybody in a positive way.”
Holley moved to Campbell River with her family about three years ago and noticed a lack of community gardens in town. In the spring of 2010 she started talking to the community about it to see if the idea was something locals were interested in. She found out that many Campbell Riverites were very interested.
“A lot of people thought this was a good idea; it just took somebody to say ‘I can guide it somewhere if other people get involved,’” explained Holley.
So after getting a number of volunteers on board, she got approval from the City of Campbell River to build the garden in what used to be Simms Park, on the corner of Simms Rd. and Lawson Grove in Willow Point.
Holley said the hardest part of getting the garden into gear was fundraising, but she was impressed with Campbell River’s generosity.
“In the end this community was unbelievable. We had huge donations by all kinds of people,” said Holley. “We had so much help from the community.”
The City donated almost $10,000 towards the construction of the garden, and a number of local businesses donated funds, as well as individuals in the community.
While growers are only charged $35 per year to use a plot, (which includes soil), Holley estimates each plot cost about $150 to build, plus the construction of a surrounding fence, a shed, and a layer of bark mulch covering the ground, among other things like hoses and compost containers.
The garden also has a large bed in the back to grow food for the local food bank. With the late start of the growing season, Holly said the food bank garden doesn’t have as much food growing in it as she would like, but said it will be more productive in the future.
“We’re going to organize a team, and get somebody to come in and help us plan it out so we are turning out as much food as we can to the food bank,” explained Holley.
And Laughing Willow Community Garden is not the end of Holley’s mission to grow food in Campbell River. She is working with Greenways Land Trust – which oversees Laughing Willow Community Garden – and the City to create more community gardens all over Campbell River.
“That’s been part of the vision right from the beginning; sustainable, organic, family friendly gardening all over the city,” said Holley. “We want to work with the City, with the community, and take old lots that aren’t being used anymore and turn them into gardens.”