Neighbourhood opposes Port Moody community garden

Glenayre Community Association wants to preserve its park space instead of the city's plan to add a 60-plot community garden

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By Lauren Vanderdeen

Plans for a community garden in Port Moody have been put on hold for the second time in two years in the face of community opposition.

After the Glenayre Community Association expressed concerns about adding a 60-plot community garden to their neighbourhood park, Port Moody city council paused the garden plans on Jan. 25. The garden had been approved by council two weeks prior.

Art Wilkinson Park in the Glenayre neighbourhood was picked as a potential location for a community garden due to its good sunlight, access to water and proximity to multi-unit dwellings. The city has budgeted $39,600 for the 60 garden plots.

Garden doesn’t suit neighbourhood needs

Sean Ogilvie, the president of the Glenayre Community Association, said while the neighbourhood isn’t opposed to community gardens, it wants to preserve its park space.

“We feel that it’s important that we retain our park space so that it can be used by the greater community for a variety of different activities all year long,” Ogilvie said.

“[A community garden is] a very land-intensive use. And it serves a specific and limited number of people for half of the year. And we don’t have surplus park space to allocate to various groups,” he said.

Ogilvie described Art Wilkinson Park as a multi-purpose space used for family picnics, Easter egg hunts and children’s recreation like playing catch and sledding.

The Glenayre neighbourhood is made up of primarily single-family homes.

“There aren’t people in this immediate area that would be in need of that [community garden] program,” Ogilvie said.

An aerial map of Art Wilkinson Park, showing the proposed location of the 650 square metre garden in the 16,150 square metre park.
An aerial map of Art Wilkinson Park with a rendering of the size and location of the proposed 60-plot community garden. Photo: City of Port Moody.

Gardens support food security

Lori Greyell works for the Grow Local Society and coordinates the Port Moody Police Department community garden. She will manage the Art Wilkinson Park community garden if it gets built.

Greyell said the pandemic has highlighted a desire and need for growing your own food.

“[Community gardens are] for food security as well: the ability to grow your own food and have control over that,” she said. “It brings a diverse group of people together. You have all ages, all backgrounds, all everything [coming] together, which is nice, and we can learn from each other.”

The Port Moody Police Department community garden has dedicated plots for the Share Family and Community Services food bank and the Share community kitchen. Greyell hopes to do the same at the Art Wilkinson Park, as well as include wheelchair-accessible plots.

There are over 100 families on the waitlist for a community garden plot in Port Moody. Elizabeth Theriault, the owner of Epicure Preserves, has been on the waitlist for three years.

Theriault lives in a condo with a north-facing balcony.

“I can’t grow herbs or thyme or jalapenos or habaneros,” she said. “I can’t grow anything that requires sunlight, basically.”

Having a garden plot “would be absolutely super,” Theriault said. “As a farm market vendor, this is a real community. People who eat local, grow local, care about the local environment [and] are a wonderfully supportive, collective community.”

City council offers compromises

The city’s public consultation survey showed 60.5 per cent of respondents against adding a community garden to Art Wilkinson Park. Just over 115 people, most of whom live in Glenayre, responded to the survey.

Concerns included increased traffic, lack of need for a garden due to residents having their own backyards and the possibility of the garden attracting bears.

At the Jan. 25 council meeting, councillors offered possible compromises.

“A smaller garden, potentially 30 beds … may be a solution that would make everybody at least sort of happy, and still move forward with the importance of community gardens,” said Coun. Amy Lubik.

Coun. Meghan Lahti suggested putting conditions on access to the garden, to ensure traffic wouldn’t coincide with pick-up and drop-off at the local elementary school.

Robbie Nall, Port Moody’s parks superintendent who wrote the report presented to council, was not made available for comment as the project is currently under council consideration.

Mayor Rob Vagramov did not respond to the Langara Voice by deadline.

A timeline showing the garden's first approval on Mar. 13, 2021, first pause on April 13, 2021, the consultation period from September to October 2021, the second approval on Jan. 11, 2022, and the second pause on Jan. 25, 2022.
A timeline of the proposed community garden from its original approval to the current pause. Infographic: Lauren Vanderdeen.

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