A coalition of groups has asked Nelson City Council for a permit to create the Seventh Street Community Garden on city-owned land in lower Fairview.
The garden would be created by the Nelson Community Food Centre, Nelson SEEDS, and the regional environmental organization Wildsight, to eventually be managed by the food centre. The collaboration is being coordinated by Heather Keczan.
“We all know the benefits of gardening,” she told council at its Sept. 28 meeting. “The benefits are physical, social, and environmental. A community garden can strengthen a community.”
The seniors gardening organization SEEDS owns a 1,200 square foot greenhouse that was to be moved from Lakeside Park to Seventh Street this year, but this has been delayed by the pandemic.
According to this new plan presented to council, the greenhouse would be moved and reconstructed by the Youth Climate Corps, a project of Wildsight. The 14-member group of people ages 19 to 28 has been taking training and will be paid to do climate change mitigation work in the Nelson area. The greenhouse in the community garden is one such project, and it is hoped that it can be ready this fall, Climate Corps co-founder Richard Klein told council.
“We’re trying to a demonstrate a culture of civic engagement with these young people,” Klein said. “With the community garden, we want to do some things that support community resilience.”
In addition to the greenhouse, the garden would include a drip irrigation system, a deer fence, 52 raised garden beds 3.6 by 1.2 metres, a perennial and berry area, a sheltered area for volunteers, washing sinks and work tables, and a compost area.
Some of the garden boxes would be rented to members of the public, with priority given to neighbours, and others would be used by the food centre as part of its services to low-income people.
“Lakeview Village has some garden boxes there so we said, let’s just multiply these, with some of them designated for the food centre for safe, affordable, locally grown produce,” said Keczan.
“The local residents will play a role,” she added, “and we hope to have a garden committee formed and perhaps they will be the ones who will take over the management of it.”
Keczan told council she had just participated in two weeks of training for the Youth Climate Corps and she was impressed.
“They are as shovel-ready as anything,” she said.
Members of the youth group will be paid $2,000 per month for four months under a $160,000 grant to Wildsight from the Canada-British Columbia Workforce Development Agreement. During that time they hope to raise more money to extend their work beyond four months.
In addition to the greenhouse, the climate group will be working with energy retrofits in the Nelson area, and will soon begin helping with wildfire mitigation work at Nelson’s water intake in West Arm Park.
In addition to asking for permission to occupy land for the community garden, the coalition also asked the city for access to soil and leaf mulch from the city’s stockpiles, waiver of water hook-up fees, partial insurance coverage, expedited permits so the greenhouse can be constructed this fall, and possible financial assistance in the future.
The presentation was for the information of council only, and the request will be brought to the Oct. 13 council meeting at which a decision will be made.
Mayor John Dooley remarked on the tight time frame and cautioned the group that they should consult residents of the immediate neighbourhood.
“The folks across in the Golden Life building, they might have something to say, good or bad,” Dooley said, adding, “Nelson’s history of community gardens has been marginal at best.”
Klein assured Dooley that the group has organized such a community meeting to be held before the next council meeting.