Town of lake Cowichan to get an urban forest?

Grants possible: Council exploring options for a community garden-plus in town

The seed has been planted for a Lake Cowichan food forest.

The idea — which involves planting fruit-bearing trees and shrubs and eventually gardens to be maintained and harvested by community volunteers — was instigated by Councillor Bob Day.

“The goal is to bring a diverse community together around sharing food with the public. Different generations will get together to grow food,” explained Day.

“The idea is not for capital expenditures, it’s for healthy activities in the community. And in this community, who wouldn’t want to help us plant a fruit tree?”

The forest would be built on the Lake Cowichan side of the sports arena, close to the existing BMX park, around the proposed soccer/softball combined use field.

“I’m going to go out and speak to other people to see if there is a buzz,” said Day who has completed extensive research on the similar Beacon Food Forest in Seattle.

“The research I’ve done starts out with just planting trees and bushes and that would pretty much complete phase one. Phase two is a community garden and that requires a lot more labour and volunteers. I’m leaning towards earth-friendly, organic methods of growing.”

Mayor Ross Forrest is on board with Day’s vision.

“I think the location is awesome. It’s off the main street but a two-minute walk from Saywell Park,” said the mayor. “We have to phase it in. I really like how it can involve so many different groups in our community. I think it’s good and very do-able.”

Council supported Day’s proposal to prepare applications for a Healthy Communities grant of up to $20,000, as well as a Tree Canada grant of up to $15,000 towards the initial plantings.

But there was caution. Councillor Tim McGonigle believes more preparation may be necessary to work any kinks out of the proposal and secure the grants.

“We’ve always considered community garden requests before but have struggled with the proper positioning of them. This needs more research than us just applying for a grant, unfortunately,” he said.

Day appreciated McGonigle’s concerns, saying some quick work would need to be done by the town’s planner.

“There is a lot of what-ifs for example with bears. But there’s bears in my driveway right now and they walk past my tomatoes to get to my garbage can,” said Day.

“People want to go out into the community and that’s healthy. T.V was the worst thing invented by mankind as it’s decreasing healthy activity. This will give people things to do while their child is at hockey practice.”