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City looking for groups to start community gardens

City has identified seven public parks that are suitable for gardens
The Charstate Community Garden is one of the current gardens in Campbell River. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror.

The city of Campbell River has been keeping its eye on possible locations for community gardens, and wants community groups to start them.

After noticing that food security was a dire issue for the community back in 2011, the city made it a priority to bring locally grown food production up to a more sustainable level. Part of that is the creation of community gardens. Over the intervening years, two community gardens on public land have started and have become very successful. However, the city has identified a list of other possibilities and would like community groups to take up the mantle of creating and running these gardens.

“We have a very low level of production of locally grown and produced food in this area. Back in 2011 it was less than one per cent. The aim of the community plan was to bring that up to 10 per cent by 2031. As of 2020, we have managed to bring two community gardens on line. Those gardens are Campbellton, which came on line in 2015 and Charstate, which started up in 2018,” said Linda Nagle, a program director from the city’s recreation and culture department.

“It may seem like not much progress, but getting community gardens going is challenging and takes a lot of volunteer work,” she added. “It needs some very dedicated groups out there in the community to get things going. Once they’re going, they’re incredibly popular. There’s not one garden in town that doesn’t have a waiting list for people wanting to get in there. That’s really rewarding to see.”

The city has laid out seven potential sites for community gardens on public property around the city. However, there are options for sites on private property as well. The city has a document called Agriculture Now which outlines how to proceed with that and which agreements need to be in place. Groups are also invited to inquire with the city about properties that are not on the list, but those may have not been included for specific reasons.

“The ones that you see are all currently parkland that is either big enough or has plenty of room for a garden like Charstate,” Nagle said. “You’ve still got space for playing games, there’s a play park there and there’s the garden. There are some others that are smaller, but they’re not particularly useful for anything right now. However they could be awesome for a garden.”

This initiative has been going on for a few years now, but Nagle thinks that the time is right for people to organize and create new gardening spaces around the city. That is particularly true thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We have so many people in town who are food insecure, so if gardens are grown here and there’s food to share… It’s just a great way of feeding other people and sharing within the community,” she said.

Though it is the end of gardening season, Nagle suggests that those interested take the winter months to come up with a plan for their community garden and work with her on getting through the proper process by the start of next planting season. The city is looking for community groups, not individuals, to undertake these gardens, since the initial amount of work is significant. Insurance must be provided by the operators of the gardens, but Greenways Land Trust and other agencies are able to provide affordable options. Those interested can contact Nagle at 250-286-5302 to start the process.

READ MORE: Community Gardens deemed essential service

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