As gardeners in Ottawa wait for the winter to end, the Community Garden Network is waiting for the city to approve its budget for this year and kickstart planning for spring projects – including a proposed new site at McNabb Park.
Currently, there are three community gardens in Centretown – at Nanny Goat Hill, Jack Purcell Community Centre, and at the corner of Lyon and Lisgar streets.
The biggest project this year would feature the establishment of a garden in McNabb Park, next to the McNabb arena and community centre, at the corner of Bronson and Gladstone avenues, according to Bonnie Mabee, who chairs the trees and green space committee of the Centretown Citizens Community Association.
“There are two challenges to starting community gardens in Centretown,” says Mabee. “First is the lack of greenspace. We’re losing a lot of greenspace to overdevelopment as a lot of old parking lots that could have been used for gardens are being used to build condo towers. There’s also a lot of shade in Centretown. Vegetables don’t like shade, they like lots of sun.”
Mabee says that establishing a garden in McNabb Park will address these problems.
“We’re pleased that McNabb Park has a lot of space – especially sunny space that will enable us to plan for a large community garden,” says Mabee.
McNabb also has ample access to water. Mabee noted that is “a tricky issue for some gardens because they don’t have enough water.”
Just Food, the City of Ottawa, and members of the network collaborated in 2009 to establish the Community Garden Development Fund. The annual $76,000 fund is used to establish new community gardens and to expand and enrich existing gardens within Ottawa.
“We sent our proposed budget a couple of days ago,” says Mabee. “Right now, we are waiting on the City of Ottawa to approve our budget so we can move forward with this year’s plans. Right now, the city is trying to match the amount we need with the annual budget they give us.”
The Centretown Community Health Centre is among the groups that developed Ottawa’s Food for All Project, an initiative established last year that aims to enhance the city’s sustainability and nutritional profile.
According to Christina Marchant, the centre’s director of community health promotion, the community gardens in Ottawa are a key component of this plan.
“The Community Health Centre supports the community gardens in Centretown,” says Marchant. “Community gardens provide health benefits including increased access to affordable healthy food, they teach people about the food system, and most importantly, they bring neighbours in contact with one another.”
Mabee noted that “most people would assume that gardening attracts an older crowd, but it’s amazing how many young people apply. It’s because they want real vegetables. Tomatoes, carrots, eggplants, you name it, they grow it.”
Mabee says her favourite part of building the gardens is seeing the benefit they add to the community.
“There are so many different people that apply to garden, and its wonderful to see that gardening brings them all together,” says Mabee.
“The food that is grown helps the people live an affordable, healthy lifestyle. But they’re not just for healthy food, they’re about community building and greenspace.”