Community garden on St. Jacques? Not in my backyard.

Some members of the community aren’t digging Ucluelet’s community garden idea.

Ucluelet has $20,000 to develop a park on St. Jacques Blvd. and is considering using these funds to develop a community garden but locals living on St. Jacques Blvd. have thrown a thorn into this idea.   

Ucluelet’s council recently reviewed a letter signed by several residents who are opposed to a community garden landing in their backyard and would rather see a trail network installed that showcases the area’s already-present vegetation.

The letter was signed by Carey McPherson, Dave McPherson, Bill Embury and Shelly LaRose, and noted the proposed site has two adjacent trails that tourists and locals use to get from Bay St. to Peninsula Rd. and access shops including the Ucluelet Liquor Store.

“There are many people that open their liquor and drink while walking and loitering on these trails,” they wrote.

“These trails also connect partiers from Big Beach and Brown’s Beach to Peninsula Rd. causing noise problems…Any open benches that are placed on this lot will invite people to stay and drink openly.”

The writers suggested the area is hard for local police to monitor because it is not visual from the road.

“Community gardens do not come without conflict issues,” they wrote.

“Issues include hard partying in gardens, break-ins, heavy drinking and drugs. This area already has some issues with drugs and alcohol, so this location may not be the best option for Ucluelet.”

The letter also suggests any composting done on the site could lead to an increase in wildlife activity.

“Bears have been shot on Rainforest Dr. in previous years for climbing decks and breaking into garbages,” they wrote.

The letter writers questioned whether a community garden is needed.

“Typically, community gardens are created on unforested urban lots for apartment/condo dwellers who do not have access to outdoor growing space. Ucluelet has very few apartment buildings and most long-term residents do have access to growing spaces,” they wrote.

“St. Jacques Blvd and Rainforest Drive have mostly large lots, with ample room for homeowners to use for gardening…A location closer to apartments and rental units would be much better for those who would use it most.”

The letter suggests a better use of the land would be a trail system equipped with educational signage that identifies native plant species.

“We believe this is a wonderful chance to further showcase the beauty of our street and town,” they wrote.

“Many people enjoy walking from the Wild Pacific Trail into town, and this could provide another logical and eco-friendly link.”

After reviewing the letter, Mayor Dianne St. Jacques said council’s community garden conversation never escalated beyond an idea and that no plans for the site are set in stone.

“There was a lot of conversation and different folks have a real strong interest in a community garden area,” St. Jacques said.

“We were investigating the possibility. It’s very much in the early stages of looking at what can be done on that property, with the money that we have, to get the best use out of it.”

She assured public input would be sought and neighborhood residents would have a say in what ultimately gets done.

“It is quite a good sized space so there’s lots of opportunity,” she said. 

Coun. Sally Mole agreed and suggested forming a committee to hash out a plan for the property.

“Because it’s a fairly big, significant, piece of parkland and, I think, it’s got really great potential value to that neighborhood, I think it would be really great to have neighborhood input,” she said.

 â€œI would like to take baby steps on this one and not rush anything through without having a really good look at what’s best for that neighborhood.”

Council had looked at an area across from the Ucluelet Community Centre as a potential community garden site but this land is now designated for an improved bike park and a beach volleyball court.

The $20,000 council has to spend on the St. Jacques Blvd. site must be spent on St. Jacques Blvd.

“When the subdivision was created, there was $20,000 given by the developer towards a park for the future,” Mayor St. Jacques said. “That $20,000 is tied to that park; it can’t be spent anywhere else.”

 

Andrew.bailey@westerlynews.ca