The seed has been well and truly planted for a community garden in Lake Cowichan.
That is thanks for local councillor and lake stalwart Bob Day who sees the garden as just a small part of his vision to turn the town into a healthier, greener community.
“The whole concept in my mind that brought this around was when I started doing the work on healthcare,” said Day. “It connected all the dots of how to start moving towards a healthier community. One of the biggest discourages in my generation has been television, which has caused us to sit around on our ass for hours and hours, watching things that aren’t really real.”
The site for the community garden is lodged between Centennial Park ballfield and Point Ideal Drive, across the road from Cowichan Lake and within walking distance of the downtown core.
“it’s a no-brainer because we’ve got this $5 million plan on the table to re-do the field because you can’t play on it. Baseball is starting up soon and you can’t play on the field.”
The community garden is a segment of Day’s ultimate condition driven by a passion for healthy living including his latest discovery in permaculture.
A food forest to coincide, a new dog park and revitalization of Centennial Park in general are all turning the wheels in Day’s brain, and he’s willing to take a leading role in greener change.
“Because I’m on council, something I found out at that public meeting with business owners is that people come up to you all the time and say we need a community garden, we need a farmers market, you need to fix our business community. All they’re really looking for is some leadership. We can fix their sidewalks up to their door, but what they do after that is their own business.
“So I’ve heard this time and time again that we need a new dog park, a new playing field, a community garden and then I came across the healthy thing. I also work in a grocery store. So all the dots are connected and this is healthy, for everybody. And if it’s all in one spot, it’ll create a community spirit where everything is tied in. We’ve got all the trails and all the roads lead to here, it’s easy to get here. Technically I only need to convince four other people, but I’d be an idiot to do it that way rather than convince a whole community,” Day explained.
In recent times, Day has been actively talking to many people in the Cowichan Lake area in person and via social media to get different views on the prospect of a community garden, amongst other things.
“What I’ve learned is, to have the support with the nods of the head is one thing, but I’m also looking around in the community fir the people willing to get off their butt. I know baseball is on-side because they’ve been pressing us for better fields. We’ve got teams going out of town that need to play on this field.
“We’ve been hounded for a dog park for years. I’ve seen a person on their butt with a chronic disease and a dog, and she’s found a dog park in Honeymoon Bay and now goes out of her home three times a wee. My personal goal is to get people outside, doing things with other people. That’s community and being healthy, and with the food part, it all makes sense.”
Carolyn Austin is heavily involved with the Lake Bloomers Garden Club and says her group would have an appetite to get involved, to some extent.
“We are a group of people that just like to have fun gardening so we do want to get involved to some extent,” she said. “I’ve already had two propositions for community gardens turned down in the past.”
Austin is in favour of Day’s proposition but still wishes to remain cautious.
“We’ve seen Bob’s proposal and we definitely support it, but I do worry about some things,” said Austin, who has already had discussions with Day about the garden club’s pending participation. “It’s a little out of town for the seniors and I do worry about the fruits being eaten by the bears. I think this will have to be done slowly and in stages. We volunteer a lot and we’re all getting older. We need the middle aged to step up and start getting more involved.”
Day is envisioning many fruits and vegetables being grown locally once his plan comes together as he described the potential formation of apple trees and berry planting at the site.
“The gardening part is about permaculture which is working with your natural surroundings and planting. The funding is easy, we’ll either get it from grants or the community. If we put a call out so everybody donates $25 for a tree or get people to bring a bag of seeds, I don’t think we’ll have a problem. I want the community to be in charge and take control of this. Obviously we have to be organic as we’re not going to be pouring chemical fertilizers. Why a lot of agriculture is shutting down in the United States is because the soil has been used and used again for the same thing, with the same vegetables and fertilizers, and the soil is drying up and turning into salt — rendered useless.
“The best food you can eat is the food you grow yourself and you’re happy to consume. That you have no doubts about where it came from and that is what I think will be adopted here. I know if I put a shout out for people to come down here with their shovels, trees and seeds, then this place would be planted in no time, for free.”
Day also believes working towards a greener community is something that should be done everywhere and not just in Lake Cowichan.
“One of the last things I watched was how humans on earth have all the technology, all the science and all the brains to do the right thing, yet we continue to get up every morning and do the wrong things for the earth. We get up and burn fossil fuels and use as much electricity as we can and is that the right thing? No. We know it’s not right but we continue to do it because we don’t think it’s doing harm and the harm is so minimal every year. But by 2050 the world will be four degrees warmer.”
As a result, Day has already contacted Gerald Thom and the Cowichan Lake River Stewardship Society to conduct water testing on various sources around the garden site that flow into Cowichan Lake.
“Testing the water is important because when we do this project we need to do everything right. We need to balance the budget with the earth as well. We want to correct anything that’s wrong, so with the water, will collecting it in a pond before it goes into the lake be useful? I think so.
“The $20,000 grant I applied for from BC Healthy Communities I applied for will help us. The gardening part is easy, I’ve got that in my back pocket already. The vultures can’t wait to get out here and start digging, but I want to make sure it’s done properly. I think everyone in this community will visit here at least once a week, and with hockey and baseball, some people will be here three times a week and there will be something here for everybody to do.”