A year later and farm flooding continues

One year has passed and Holly Hills Farm is still underwater.

That’s the message Katie Denne took to city council Monday morning in pleading with council to help save her and her husband’s heritage farm.

The 16.2 acre property, at the base of the Holly Hills subdivision in Campbellton, has been in Denne’s family for more than 50 years. The couple have a vision of turning it into a cultural, agricultural and educational hub for the community but it’s slowly being destroyed by winter flooding.

“Holly Hills Farm is in grave danger due to the inadequate ditching and ineffective culverts. Over five of our eight-acre pasture is flooded throughout most of the year,” Denne said. “The water draining from the Holly Hills subdivision doesn’t follow the ditches, instead it moves along our pasture, blanketing it. The constant water is rotting our fence posts, killing our trees, drowning our pasture grasses, submerging our bridges and causing dangers for ourselves and our animals.”

Monday’s speech to council during a financial planning session wasn’t Denne’s first time in council chambers. She appealed to council last winter to find money in the budget to fix the drainage problems in the Holly Hills area.

Council was sympathetic and put money aside to improve the ditch and culvert system on Woodburn Road and re-route the drainage ditch from the centre of Denne’s property to the eastern edge. The work was to be undertaken in the summer within the Fisheries and Oceans Canada window to avoid disturbing the fish habitat.

However, the city only received two bids after the project went out to tender and both were  three times the amount the city budgeted for.

Denne said she figures the tenders were so high because it was a busy time of year and the contractors only had a few weeks to complete the work.

Denne said this time around she would like to see council approve the work earlier in the year to give the city more time to put the project out to tender which would give the contractor a longer time frame to complete the work.

“I’m here to please ask you to make the Holly Hills drowning problem a priority and roll over the money from 2013,” Denne said. “Please make us a priority in your financial planning. You have the opportunity to help and make great change for so many people. Don’t let the time, effort and money that’s already been spent go to waste.”

Coun. Larry Samson asked city staff whether the money that was earmarked for the project last year was still there.

Ron Neufeld, the city’s general manager of operations, said the money is still available.

“The funding is still there and we would anticipate carrying those funds forward to 2014,” said Neufeld who added that since the project scope is already mostly developed the city could put the project out to tender earlier than it did last year. “Because most of it’s now complete, we can tender earlier and give ourselves more options in the event submissions are not acceptable.”

Mayor Walter Jakeway assured Denne she hasn’t been forgotten.

“Thank-you for coming today, you’ve certainly put it back on the front burner.”


Holly Hills Farm

The Dennes are running a weekly egg program out of their farm, supplying up to 13 families with fresh, free range eggs as well as selling heritage, free range chickens to the community.

Denne and her husband spent more than $65,000 in revitalizing the farm back into a working farm which included rebuilding and building infrastructure, purchasing farm equipment, and acquiring livestock such as chickens, alpacas, and miniature donkeys.

The couple harvested alpaca fibre to sell to a local artisan and have created educational birthday and family programs to promote local agriculture and raise environmental awareness.

The Dennes future ventures include: pasture raised beef, pork and rabbit; a market garden full of vegetables, berries, herbs and fruit trees from both crop fields and greenhouse spaces; a pumpkin patch; and a cornfield and maze.

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