The Garden City Lands: A once in a lifetime opportunity
Very rarely is a community given such a golden opportunity. To bring into fruition a plan that would benefit a diverse group of citizens, the Garden City Lands offers such opportunity.
The sheer size of the land, its central location, its close proximity to Kwantlen Polytechnic University, and the plethora of native flora and fauna present are all major assets, which offer great potential for eco-recreation, education, food production and community engagement.
According to the City of Richmond’s Official Community Plan, the population of Richmond is expected to grow to 212,000 by the year 2021. Much of this growth will be in the City Centre where there is a shortage of green space and parks. The Garden City Lands, not unlike Vancouver’s Stanley Park or New York’s Central Park, offers the perfect setting for eco-recreation. The wealth of bog plants present on the GCL are rarely seen in the heart of an urban city centre.
In order for the Garden City Lands to accommodate recreation, education and agriculture, the site has to be prepared. Site hydrology needs to be carefully examined and water issues, including drainage, water retention, and irrigation, needs to be addressed over the entirety of the property, rather than section by section. Reservoir ponds(s) could greatly enhance drainage and be a resource for irrigation needs. The other pressing issue is the removal of invasive plant species on the site.
In 2011, Sustainable Food Systems Park proposal was presented to Richmond council. The Garden City Lands was seen as the perfect site to integrate conservation, education, urban agriculture, eco/agri-recreation and community wellness. That vision is still relevant and timely. The site could accommodate, higher and community teaching farms, community garden plots, and social space for gatherings and community events.
Garden City Lands is only a few steps away from Kwantlen, which has a strong s sustainable agriculture, and biological sciences; it is only natural that the university would be considered a leader and prominent stakeholder in the Garden City Lands.
Kwantlen’s Sustainable Agriculture program plans to establish and operate a teaching and research farm to support its unique degree and related small lot agriculture research. The students and faculty of the university, in the Sustainable Agriculture and Richmond Farm School and programs, could have access to land for their teaching and research laboratory farm to complete their practicum and training in best farming/land management.
Although Richmond has a substantial tract of ALR land, it is missing the availability of training ground to build the capacity of the next generations of farmers who would farm its land. The Garden City Lands, in partnership with Kwantlen, offer a perfect training ground for farmers, agrologists, soil scientists, and entrepreneurs who would like to contribute to Richmond’s economy and enrich its sustainable agriculture and eco/agri-tourism sector.
To make the Garden City Lands an accessible, inclusive site, it is tremendously valuable to have good community partners.
The current work of the Richmond Food Bank, Richmond Family Place, Family Services of Greater Vancouver, Vancouver Coastal Health Authority, RADAT/Pathways, Garrett Wellness Centre, Richmond Nature Park, Garden City Land Conservation Society, Richmond Food Security Society, Kwantlen Polytechnic University Sustainable Agriculture and Institute for Sustainable Horticulture, and Richmond School District aligns well with Sustainable Food Systems Park model.
The Garden City Lands will become a hub for food, education, community training, urban farming and gardening, and recreation where the general public, Kwantlen students/faculty, and urban farmers/gardeners could congregate. Soon, Richmond would win new awards for its forethought, not unlike the Terra Nova Rural Park.