Community Papers

Victoria's Michigan Street community garden on the move

Jill Kirstein, 65, growing strawberries, has been using the Michigan Street Community Gardens for four years. - Drew McLachlan/News staff
Jill Kirstein, 65, growing strawberries, has been using the Michigan Street Community Gardens for four years.
— image credit: Drew McLachlan/News staff

Michigan Street Community Garden gardeners are looking for a new home now that their current location has been sold by the B.C. government.

The allotment garden, built in 1999 with help from food sustainability group LifeCycles, predates the city’s community gardens program.

The garden consists of 20 raised beds, used year-round, in the corner of a Michigan Street parking lot, formerly owned by the province, which was sold for development last year.

“Many people are sad to see this corner go, it’s been a staple of the community for so long,” said Sherri Loken, vice-president of Michigan Street Gardeners. “Not a day goes by without a tourist walking past and telling us how lucky we are to have this, especially when we’re still growing in February.”

City officials surveyed 10 possible locations, eventually settling on South Park as the new location.

Jocelyn Jenkins, acting director of parks, recreation and culture, said that the next step in relocation will be sitting down with the James Bay Neighbourhood Association to hash out the methods for consultation with other groups.

City councillor Chris Coleman said that discussions will begin this week, and though the city expects some opposition, he believes that “most will be pleased with (the city’s) decisions.”

The decision was made based on the park’s size, around 9,000 square feet, larger than the current location, and its closeness to South Park School. The school staff have shown an interest in including the garden into the education curriculum. Despite the land being owned by the city, consultations will include School District 61, which maintains the property.

“We’ve already began working with them, and have started discussions,” Coleman said. “The principal of the school is very open to adding the garden to school programming, though consultation is going to take longer than we’d like due to the ongoing labour disputes.”

Loken said her group is excited to work with the school, though South Park was not their first choice for the new location, and she hopes the city will continue to pursue other areas after relocation.

“The city’s doing what they can, but it’s difficult because there isn’t a lot of usable, arable land in James Bay,” Loken said. “The easiest choice would be using park land, though there isn’t a lot to go around.”

Along with providing the community group with land, the city will install fencing and standpipes for water, and the new owners of the current property have offered to move the soil. Other costs incurred by the relocation however, such as creating new beds and a gardening shed, will be paid for by the volunteers who maintain and use the gardens. Loken said that wherever the garden ends up, she hopes another move won’t be necessary.

“When you put as much effort and as much money into something as some of the gardeners do, you really hope you can stay put and continue improving it,” she said.

 

 

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