UPDATE: Last night at the town’s finance and administration committee meeting, superintendent Nagy Rizk told council that the will have to be relocated. More on this soon.
Although still in its infancy, the Cowichan Lake Community Garden may be in need of a new home due to the upgrades planned for neighbouring Centennial Park.
At the July parks and recreation committee meeting, Nagy Rizk, superintendent of public works and engineering services for the Town of Lake Cowichan, said there is a strong chance that changes to plans for the new and improved Centennial Park will require the relocation of the community garden.
“The only hiccup that I can see [with the park plans] is the community garden’s probably going to have to go. We cannot salvage it,” he told the committee. “I will keep working and keep updating you.”
The revamped Centennial Park will include two baseball diamonds, a soccer field, tennis and pickle ball courts and parking. Rizk said that while planners for the new park can easily fit one baseball diamond and a soccer field into the existing space, two ball fields make it much more challenging.
Mayor Ross Forrest explained that having two ball parks there would enable multiple games to be played at the same time.
“It is [preferable] for tournaments,” he said. “It’s a huge advantage for our community for sure. And even for kids games and practices and everything else. It certainly is a preference for ball fans.”
Forrest and town councillors expressed appreciation for the work done by community gardeners and all agreed the garden itself is a positive feature within the town.
The quarter-acre garden was designed by Cowichan Green Community under contract by Island Health in 2014, on land provided by the Town of Lake Cowichan. At the time, the town offered up two possible spots for the garden.
“We certainly do appreciate the community garden and what they do and what they have,” said Forrest. “We don’t want to displace them but, in all fairness, the location they’re in, they chose… That’s the one they wanted.”
According to Coun. Bob Day, who was heavily involved in the community garden initiative, superintendent Rizk “being cautious and probably thinking this was probably going to happen, thought the other space would be better because it would be right out of the way of any future expansion.” However, he said the community garden group preferred the location closer to Centennial Park because of the small hill which they could incorporate into the garden’s design.
Cara Smith, spokeswoman for the Cowichan Lake Community Garden, declined to comment because she had not yet been contacted by anyone from the town about the possible need to relocate.
At the parks and recreation committee meeting, Coun. Tim McGonigle said he felt a meeting with the community garden would be appropriate when the park’s redesign is finalized, which should be in the next week or two.
“I think there has been a lot of work put into that and it would be unfortunate to not include them in the discussions about relocation,” said McGonigle.
Rizk said he didn’t want to jump to conclusions until the plans are completely finished, but did agree with this sentiment.
“It’s our intention to work with them even if the whole garden has to be relocated,” said Rizk, adding that his department would work with the community garden within the budget of the project “to see what’s the best way to salvage what we can salvage.”
No timeline is set for now but Rizk said if the garden does have to move, there is still lots of time before that would happen.
“We have the rest of the year,” he said.