I sent the following letter to the Vancouver Park Board today in support of the YMCA Intercultural Community Garden’s Sunset Beach location:
I am writing to express my support for the YMCA Intercultural Community Garden’s proposed location at Sunset Beach.
Whatever location is proposed for the garden will lead to temporary controversy, but the truth of the matter is that Vancouver needs community gardens. The Y’s garden — with its aim of promoting intercultural understanding — is especially important as Vancouver becomes increasingly multicultural.
I recall that the Stanley Park flower/native plant garden was controversial when it was first built in 2003, but it has since become an accepted and welcome part of the park. The YMCA garden will also become accepted and welcome after the initial controversy dies down. If you allow the vocal negative minority to have their way (as they did in David Lam Park), what does that bode for the future of community gardens in Vancouver?
The YMCA (with its partners, the West End Residents Association and Gordon Neighbourhood House) already has one community garden in successful operation at St. Paul’s Hospital. This garden, in only its first year of operation, is already helping to integrate newcomers into the community and providing downtown residents with much needed green space and gardening opportunities.
Those opposed to the Sunset Beach garden claim that it will be an eyesore, subject to vandalism, that it takes away valuable recreational space and that it turns public into private land. Let’s consider these claims:
1. How can anything natural be an eyesore? Even in the dead of winter, Vancouver’s community gardens are beautiful — beauty does not necessarily mean pretty flowers or manicured lawns — there is also beauty in decay and in wildness.
2. With regard to potential vandalism, there is a chance of that with any community garden, but for the most part, people respect the gardens. And with this particular garden located in such a highly visible space, vandalism is even less likely.
3. The garden will occupy a very small part of the Sunset Beach park space — 30 metres by 30 metres. There will still be lots of space available for picnicking, dog walking, sunbathing, etc. The small loss of space needs to be balanced against what is gained — a place to garden for newcomers to the city and the country, an increase in Vancouver’s food production, increased foraging opportunities for bees and birds, etc.
4. Whenever a community garden is created in Vancouver, inevitably someone complains that public land is suddenly being privatized for the benefit of a few privileged gardeners. While technically, yes, the gardeners have rights over their plot and the right to harvest their crops, the garden as a whole is still available for anyone to walk through and enjoy. I find it curious that there is no hue and cry over the loss of public land when park space is turned into a tennis court — previously public space can now only be used by tennis players! – or into a children’s playground – adults are being deprived! The outcry only happens with gardens.
The truth is, as you are well aware, that Vancouver’s parks balance a variety of needs, individuals and groups. Community gardens are a vital part of that balance, and that is why I am urging the Park Board to consent to the YMCA Intercultural Community Garden at Sunset Beach Park.