On Thursday, Aug. 28, the first stake was driven into the ground at the location for the new community garden behind the Centennial ball field.
On hand were Coun. Bob Day (the driving force behind the project) and superintendent of public works Nagi Rizk for the Town of Lake Cowichan; Judy Stafford, Nora Arajs, and Erin Ward of Cowichan Green Community; Anneke Vink, Carolyn Yablonski, Valerie Jefferd, and Lorne Charbonneau from Island Health; and Cara Smith from the Lake Bloomers Garden Club.
The group was very excited to get things underway and took some time imagining and planning the space that will be used in Phase 1 of the project.
Phase 1 includes the garden space directly behind the bleachers and across the road at the lower ball park and all that that project entails. This means that upon completion at the end of March of next year, the public will be able to enjoy eight raised beds in a fenced in area, compost bins, pathways, a pergola entranceway, and hopefully at least one bench.
Nagi Rizk, superintendent of Public Works, did once again voice his concerns about the site being chosen on Thursday.
“I wanted you to see the other side,” says Rizk, indicating the piece of land on the Point Ideal Road side of the lot. “I prefer that it goes to the other side, but then it’s council’s decision. I think it’s more suitable because there won’t be any conflict with the waterline, where here there is, and most of the ball park people, they park here.”
He added that the fence line, as proposed by Cowichan Green Community, might be intrusive on the ball park parking area.
“And the accessibility. I think it’s more accessible from the Point Ideal (side) more than here,” says Rizk. “The big vision is that Saywell Park will be the hub, where the Town Square is, where we have all the tubers, all the Rhododendron Park users coming from this end, not coming from (that) end.”
But Nora Arajs from CGC says that there are several reasons why the site they have chosen is ideal.
“We talked about this area here being chosen being the preferred site for the community garden for a number of reasons. Community access being a key one. I think we need to consider safety issues for community members who are coming here, people of all ages,” says Arajs.
She points to the fact that kids playing ball in the ball park can be seen by parents who may be working in or enjoying the garden.
“But also participation. I think it’s important that it’s visible for the community, people can be engaged, they can look at it, come through the gate, they can participate as they choose. But having it as visible as possible and not back in the woods is a really important feature in terms of community engagement,” says Arajs.
She adds that the chosen site has great sun exposure, the site is relatively cleared of blackberries, broom, and other brush, and it does not encroach on the wetlands that exist behind the ball park.
“If in time the community wants to move it, that’s possible,” says Arajs. “Or expand it and keep that piece as well.”
The group also agreed that because the water line runs under the gravel past the garden area it would be an easy access to a water supply. They are also not concerned about the parking issue as there are 60 designated parking spots built into the plan for the larger ball park site.
Stafford, Arajs, and Ward are looking to incorporate the berm that exists behind the future fenced garden space, hopefully with help from the town to clear the blackberries that have taken over the hill. They would like to see this space house fruit trees and berry bushes and some terraced gardens.
“If we do that, the gardeners get the front side and the kids get the back side,” says Arajs.
Though the budget and planning for Phase 1 includes just the eight beds, there is unlimited potential for future expansion, depending on how involved community members become with the project.
“The intention is that the community takes ownership and runs with it,” says Arajs. “That Cowichan Green Community can help establish it and get it happening and then the community decides what happens next, and what they want, and how much more to expand it.”
Organizers are hoping that the beds will be subscribed to immediately and that the community becomes involved and get’s just as excited about the project as they are.
Through a series of workshops beginning in late September and going through to next March, CGC hopes to engage the public, offer classes on how to build beds, how to compost, and how to do a site plan.
“We’re going to get the community engaged in exactly where they want things,” says Stafford. “And maybe tie-in with the salmon festival.”
“Our understanding is that it’s very beginning gardeners who we’re appealing to in the workshops,” says Arajs. “But also there’d be workshop time followed by work-party time. You know, learn a little bit and then get involved in the clearing.”
For more information go to cowichangreencommunity.org or contact Stafford at 250-748-8506.