Council is considering creating a community garden on town-owned land after a presentation by resident Julian Trachsel.
Trachsel suggested the idea to council as a way to improve the sense of community in Niagara-on-the-Lake with a healthy project.
“It would be a feel good initiative at a time when there’s a lot around that just doesn’t feel all that positive,” Trachsel told councillors Monday.
He wants the garden to be allotment-based, meaning that individuals rent out a specific plot to take care of rather than a group who grows everything themselves to share with the community, like the Communities in Bloom garden at the community centre.
Councillors had considered creating a community garden in the past but when B -Y’s Honey Farm opened one this year they decided to wait and see how residents responded.
Of the 45 plots that B-Y’s has available, 40 are in use, said Trachsel, who has been renting one there.
“There’s been some issues with supply of water, especially in the spring. Vehicle access is really difficult when it’s wet. And they’ve got long weeds surrounding the garden so ticks are a concern,” Trachsel said.
He was hoping a garden on municipal land could be more centrally located and have a simple parking solution as well as easy access to water.
Director of operations Sheldon Randall recommended Nassau Park at the corner of William and Nassau streets as a suitable location, since it is centrally located and fairly protected from the elements by surrounding trees and houses.
Trachsel said that the City of Toronto operates over 100 community gardens on city-owned property and said St. Catharines has three.
With some smaller houses being built in the municipality a community garden would offer residents the option of having a garden despite living on a small residential lot, Trachsel said.
He said the garden would provide a good opportunity for education.
“Kids nowadays, and even a lot of adults, don’t necessarily understand where their food comes from or what’s involved in growing it,” he said.
“It’s great education for kids to learn hands-on and appreciate the effort that goes into bringing food to your table.”
Trachsel stressed that the town needs to commit to the idea for the long term.
“If individuals know that they can be coming back every year they are going to invest in improving the soil, enhancements like raised beds and they’ll take ownership in the project,” he said.
Trachsel said the best situation would be a plot on municipal land that is managed by an independent group from whom residents can rent their plots.
He wants to gather public input to see how many people would be interested in the garden before determining the size and number of plots.
He was surprised that the plots in St. Catharines had no fences or boundaries around them to protect them from animals, but said the situation could be different in NOTL.
“Where we are is more likely to have tourism and people coming by. So, maybe a perimeter fence to keep out bunnies, coyotes and things like that,” said Trachsel.
Council unanimously passed a motion supporting the idea and directed staff to report back on potential locations and what would be required from the town this winter.