Community action saves public garden

Off the top of my head, I can count 12 boulevard gardens in my neighbourhood.

Off the top of my head, I can count 12 boulevard gardens in my neighbourhood. Two of these are maintained by members of Victoria city council, and one of them by myself — none of them seem to cause the city much grief.

Included in this rough count is Kale Corner, a Fernwood boulevard garden created by a group of friends and neighbours at the corner of Belmont and Begbie.

Unlike similar garden plots in the area, Kale Corner has recently been the focus of a rather fevered debate, beginning last Wednesday when Zoe Mager and Chris Fretwell — the garden’s main contributors — found a City of Victoria worker dismantling the driftwood borders installed around the plot.

The worker went on to inform Mager and Fretwell that their garden would soon be levelled and reseeded with grass.

Turns out, what appeared to be a boulevard wasn’t zoned that way and, as such, gardening is a no-go.

Not the type to be discouraged, the two set about gathering community support to save Kale Corner.

Letters poured into city hall from friends at the Haultain Commons, neighbours and, eventually, food heavyweights like Guy Dauncey and a dozen other local food activists.

In a few days, Kale Corner went from a patch of fresh dirt to a precedent-setting clash between residents and the city, possibly deciding the fate of as-yet-unformed community gardens everywhere. Two hundred petition signatures later, a compromise was reached and the corner became an official community garden.

As part of its official status, Kale Corner will have some new rules, and must be open to more than just adjacent residents, but Fretwell says this won’t be much of a change.

The garden, he says, has always been a community project. “One neighbour donated two truckloads of compost, another neighbour donated a truckload of soil,” says Fretwell. “There are probably seven or eight people who have helped maintain and create beds.”

With the hard part over, Mager expressed relief and excitement along with a desire to maintain Kale Corner as an example of urban agriculture in action.

“I’m really hoping that people will feel excited about this and start utilizing common space to grow food and to gather, and support other initiatives,” she says. M

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