Gardeners are expressing disappointment following recent acts of vandalism committed at the Cowichan Lake Community Garden.
On Friday, April 15 at approximately 7 p.m. a local resident reported seeing three young boys riding bicycles within the community garden, which is surrounded by a deer fence. The passerby told the children to leave and then phoned a community garden director to report the incident.
Susan Lowe, who has a plot at the community garden and whose son received the call, came down to investigate.
“They had knocked over potted plants, plants that were waiting to be planted, they were sort of strewn about,” said Lowe. “There was an ornament—sort of like a sundial—that was knocked over. The hose was left on. There were bike tracks all through the garden, you could see the tracks where they had been riding all through it.”
Lowe said while ultimately there was “no great harm,” there could have been had the incident gone unreported and the hose left running in the garden overnight.
“It was really sad for me to see this stuff because I know the effort a lot of them put into [the garden],” she said. “This wasn’t an exclusive problem of the community garden, this was an issue that was for the community because it is after all everybody’s garden.”
RCMP Sgt. Wes Olsen confirmed the incident was reported to police.
“Members responded and did an extensive patrol of the area but did not find any youths on bicycles,” he said.
“The unfortunate part of this incident is there’s a skate park just up the hill from the garden. Plus there’s lots of places to ride your bike in the area. Why anyone feels it’s necessary to ride in amongst a community garden that people put a lot of time and effort into for the benefit of the community … it just shows a common lack of respect.”
Olsen said the offence is mischief under $5000, and if the youth involved could be identified police could issue a verbal or written caution, refer the matter to the youth justice system or even lay a charge.
“Depending on the youth, if they have previous police involvement, and whether or not they are apologetic for their actions, we have a variety of sanctions we can impose,” he said, adding that in this instance the police would most likely issue a warning.
“[Parents], maybe have a chat with your children and explain the importance to them of not damaging other people’s property,” he said.
Cara Smith, spokeswoman for the Cowichan Lake Community Garden, said she and other gardeners there were disappointed by the vandalism. In addition to the details noted by Lowe upon arriving on the scene, Smith also discovered a native flowering currant shrub she had just purchased but not yet planted was missing.
“We’re disappointed,” she said.
While there is a fence around the garden with a latched gate, it is unlocked.
“I suppose if something like this did happen again we’d have to consider something like [using a lock], but we really want to keep it accessible.”
Smith said she didn’t want to focus on the negative or to characterize all young people as troublemakers or vandals.
“There’s also a lot of positive with the youth in town,” she said, citing partnerships with the local Girl Guides, Boy Scouts and the leadership class at Lake Cowichan School.
“So there’s positive interaction with the youth of the community. This is hopefully a one-time thing.”