24 October 2010

Sunset Beach Community Garden: Great idea, Wrong location

A proposal was brought to the Park Board to create an inter-cultural community garden in the west end of Vancouver. Sponsored by the YMCA Connections in partnership with the West End Residents Association (WERA) and Gordon Neighbourhood House, the proposal would have placed the garden in a grassy area at Sunset Beach. This area is well used by local residents and visitors to the beach. After some consultation it became very apparent that this location did not have local support and so the proposal was withdrawn.

This has brought into question the whole idea of where community gardens should be located and what kind of public consultation should take place. Local residents complained that signage was minimal and located away from from paths and sidewalks. Local residents also said that while they supported a community garden, the proposed location was inappropriate as it was already well used.

The City of Vancouver and the Park Board are great supporters of community gardens as a way of building community and increasing local food capacity. While the latter goal may be debatable, the idea of building community in a diverse and dense population like Vancouver's is good. What needs to be discussed is where community gardens should be located. Are they a good use of parkland? Are there alternatives to parkland? Is building community gardens in parks "privatizing public space" as some have suggested? Does the city have unused land in its inventory that could be an alternative?

Before new proposals for community gardens in public parks are brought before the Park Board, I think both City Councillors and Park Board Commissioners need to look at where community gardens can best be located. Rather than the piecemeal process that is in place now, that often pits garden proponents against park users, I think an overall strategy, that includes public input, needs to be developed.

1 comment:

  1. Very positive avenue Stuart. I agree, the intention is great, the location is not appropriate.

    I was raised in a family whose back yard was a decent sized garden in the summer & a fantasy road & tunnel system in the fall which we kids created. If people in the West End or elsewhere want / need community gardens there are lots & lots of opportunities, including the roofs of their own buildings. Those should be identified & coordinated as you have suggested. I hope the Park Board continues to take the lead in this green, community building initiative. The Park Board already has a policy which will help interested groups to get started. Your suggestions will channel their efforts more effectively.