It’s been in the works since 2015, but the Oaklands Community Association is getting closer to making a community garden a reality.
A group of volunteers has put together an expression of interest for Oswald and Clawthorpe parks as locations for a garden – or as the community association puts it, “an enhanced public space where children can cultivate an appreciation for nature’s bounty” and “those without land can grow healthy food.”
In the past, Oaklands Park and David Spencer Park were proposed as garden spots, but both were rejected by portions of the community.
“It’s challenging because there are limited spaces in the city that are large enough for gardening,” said Katherine Muncaster, the volunteer who heads the Oaklands Community Garden Initiative. “It’s been a lot of work and I feel very sad that it hasn’t succeeded yet. I understand people feel apprehensive of any change of land use, but I also wish that we could kind of collectively make some decisions about prioritizing land for garden over lawn.”
Muncaster understands the value of city green space, but says a garden would enhance what’s available, offering a welcoming, public space that includes both private allotment gardens and potentially a food forest available to the whole community.
“We really want to have a mix of plots and commons so it feels like a welcoming pace people can walk though, pick some berries, enjoy the benches and kids play areas…it has so much potential for bringing communities together, and beauty and pollinators.”
Oaklands community development coordinator Sarah Murray agreed, citing the benefits public garden spaces offer to residents, especially renters who may not have access to, or have the ability to modify their own outdoor space.
“We don’t have any green space that involves activities for adults,” Murray said. “They also have benefits when it come to increasing food security.”
One or both of the locations brought to the City for approval will then be put to the community for feedback and the community association in hopes of getting resident support.
“I think some people have thought of it as taking away from public space,” Muncaster said. “But it is a public space and that’s why we want to make it the most welcoming and inviting space it can be.”
The City of Victoria has expressed its support for gardens in the city and offers a variety of grants that can be put towards community garden projects such as the City Micro-Grant, the Community Garden Volunteer Coordinator Grant and the My Great Neighbourhood Grant.