Davie Village Community Garden – Vancouver
Davie Village Community Garden from Michael Levenston on Vimeo. See High Definition version by clicking on the link.
Also see alternative HD High Definition version on YouTube.
David Buddle of Prima Properties describes a new community garden located at the busy corner of Burrard and Davie Streets in the heart of the West End in Vancouver. Landscape contractors put the finishing touches on the garden, bolting down public benches and raking soil in the beds as a rainy Halloween evening approaches.
Globe and Mail December 4, 2008
Soil contamination feared at garden site
December 4, 2008
VANCOUVER — If you walk by the Davie Village community garden, you’ll see a sign that reads, “If you are interested in using a garden plot to grow your own flowers, plants or food, please contact the Vancouver Public Spaces Network.”
What the sign doesn’t say is that food planting could be risky: The garden is on the site of a former gas station.
For the moment, flowers and ornamental kale are all that are growing on plots at the busy intersection at Davie and Burrard Streets, where contaminated soil was replaced by clean landfill. And the site’s developer is not advocating that food be planted.
“It’s not a farm. It’s a garden,” said David Buddle, project manager for Prima Properties Ltd., which owns the property.
Shell Canada conducted tests on the site earlier this year after contaminated soil was dug up and removed to a depth of six metres, but experts are concerned there might be hydrocarbon contamination buried deep down. Hydrocarbons are organic substances found in gasoline. Most sites that were former gas stations are left for five years before they are used for any agricultural purposes, but barely a year has passed since this gas station was torn down.
The Davie Village community garden is on a private lot, so it is not subject to the city’s guidelines for community garden plots. Ron Caswell, manager of golf and park operations for the City of Vancouver, said the Davie Village site is not under city jurisdiction, and he is not aware of city requirements for soil testing on private lots.
The owner, Prima Properties, is negotiating a lease with the Vancouver Public Space Network, a volunteer organization that co-ordinates and manages community garden sites. The VPSN is seeking a community garden licence while waiting for the Ministry of Environment to review the remediation reports. Meanwhile, Prima Properties hired landscapers to bring in the new soil and plant kale for “decorative use.”
Urban agriculture is widely popular in Vancouver, and hundreds of people are signed up on waiting lists to plant at the city’s various community garden sites. VPSN community outreach co-ordinator Emily Jubenvill said she has reviewed Shell Canada’s remediation report but wasn’t “comfortable making a comment” on the results. Ms. Jubenvill said the VPSN might use the kale growing there in a plant sale as part of a fundraiser.
The VPSN plans to consult with the community during a meeting in January to address questions about soil conditions before anyone plants vegetables. “It is a precautionary measure, but one we feel is important,” VPSN director Andrew Pask said in an e-mail.
City Farmer, a Vancouver non-profit organization that promotes urban agriculture in Vancouver, posted a video on its website promoting the garden as a spot for urban agriculture. The group’s executive director, Michael Levenston, was not aware of soil testing there.
“I’ve never asked them about that,” he said. “I’m going to believe them at face value.”
Prima Properties has a copy of Shell Canada’s soil analysis report, but Mr. Buddle would not release it or discuss its findings. “We’re a private company. It’s not a public document. The site currently meets commercial standards,” he said.
Art Bomke, University of British Columbia associate professor of agro-ecology in the faculty of land and food systems, is concerned about the possibility of soil contamination deep down at the site. Prof. Bomke said there is such a high demand for urban agriculture sites that communities wind up with marginalized pieces of land like the one at Davie and Burrard.
“In hard economic times, you see things like this,” he said. “I have observed people planting on lots that I wouldn’t recommend. It’s problematic. Often they don’t recognize risks and just start planting. We have a responsibility to protect people.”
Prof. Bomke said soil analysis reports on community garden sites should be available to the public and accessible on a website. “It’s not uncommon for gasoline to leak from storage tanks on site,” he said. “I wouldn’t plant food there until I saw the soil analysis report. There needs to be some due diligence.”
November 30, 2008. Update from Emily Jubenvill, garden coordinator.
Number and Allocation of Plots
If you’ve been by the garden in the last week or so, you may have noticed the pink twine markers that we’ve used to allocate plots on the site. We’ve been able to create approximately 100 plots. The bulk of these plots will be available for individual gardeners – and will be distributed on the basis of when you contacted us (“first come first served”). A portion of plots are being retained for use by community organizations working on food-security initiatives in the area. Finally, an additional number of plots around the perimeter of the site will be developed as “community plots” – which will be open to everyone.
The actual plots will be allocated as soon as the licensing issues are resolved – at which point a first community meeting will be held with all interested gardeners (those that are on the ‘wait-list’ at that point are also welcome to attend – as spaces will also likely open up as the growing season arrives).
Part of the licensing work that we’re currently engaged in involves the creation of a sub-lease that will act as a covenant between individual gardens and the VPSN. This means that those of you who are able to take a plot will be asked to sign an agreement saying that you agree to some basic principles around the maintenance and upkeep of the site, the fact that you won’t be harvesting illegal substances, you’ll use organic gardening principles, and that you promise not to fight each other over the use of garden tools.
Duration of the Garden
The garden is a temporary garden. The developer who owns the site intends to submit a development application down the road. They have advised us that they expect the site can function as a garden for a minimum of two years, and possibly longer.
We are still finalizing this, but anticipate that membership in the garden (for individual and community group plots) will be subject to a nominal annual membership fee (probably about $25/year). This fee will be pooled for the use of garden tools, workshops and equipment that will be available for collective use. We are also looking at the possibility of additional landscaping and plot design materials to create raised beds. It is possible that an additional materials cost may be required for this and will advise you if this is the case.
Rules about Garden Use
Community gardens rely on gardeners agreeing on a shared set of operating principles for the site. At the first meeting, we’ll be devoting a component of the time to go over some of the “rules” that are in the lease – all things that have worked well in other garden sites. Most of it’s common sense, but it’s always helpful to review things in advance – and to see if there are any other considerations that people want to put on the table.
Condition of the Site
As many of you know, the site in question is a former gas station. Both the former owner (Shell) and the developer have undertaken site remediation work that has involved removing old soil from the site (to a depth of approximately 20 feet) and filling in the space with a mixture of coarse gravel and pea gravel. According to the developer, the result of this work is that the site has been remediated to a “Commercial standard.”
As administrators we cannot make claims about the quality of the soil beyond what we ourselves have been told. We do, however, want to ensure that best practices are employed to ensure that the garden provides a safe growing opportunity for the community. For this reason we are investigating the possibility of further design work on the site that will develop raised and insulated beds. Further information on this will be provided at our first community meeting.
Meet Emily – Davie Village Community Garden Coordinator