CORNWALL – Around 40 people showed up to a public meeting Wednesday afternoon at the Benson Center to hear plans for edible gardens in the city.
The project is championed by Carilyne Hebert, executive director of the Social Development Council of Cornwall and Area, as well as the SDC Community Garden Network working group, Transition Cornwall+ and the Food Action Group. Hebert was not speaking in her capacity as city councillor and planned to declare a conflict when its discussed at council.
The meeting heard a presentation from an expert on urban edible education and ecological landscape design. “I think that starting small, providing the signage and the education is very important,” presenter Alain D’Aoust said.
Transition Cornwall+ and the Food Action Group already has six so-called “edible urban landscapes” around the city. Some of those locations are a bed at the Justice Building on Pitt Street, the parking lot behind the police station, the Seaway Valley Health Center and outside the fire station on Fourth Street.
The general consensus from attendees was to start small.
Some of the challenges expressed was having people know when vegetables are ready to pick, vandalism, city liability and keeping a dedicated group of volunteers.
Food Action Group spokesman Bill Carriere says they haven’t engaged the public and neighbourhood enough to be involved. “When you have a hot summer like this one there’s a lot of watering that needs to happen and that’s been trying for some of our members.” He said that watering was left to some “poor souls” – many who live outside Cornwall.
While it’s not “insurmountable,” Carriere believes people “don’t seem to be aware or comfortable” with picking the vegetables when they’re ready, despite signage.
Cornwall Parks Supervisor Scott Porter outlined the city’s contribution to the project – garden beds around the Lamoureux Park bandshell as well as 10-15 planter boxes that would be on the green strip behind the bandshell next to the waterfront trail.
“We want to make sure what we do is successful. If we start small, show it works, and then build on it, I think it will be great,” Porter said.
The area is the best location to start because of accessibility for all modes of transportation, access to water and it’s in the view of a police closed-circuit camera. It will be entirely up to volunteers to weed, water and take care of the gardens, Porter explained.
“The city would rototill the beds, we would supply the compost, get the beds ready in the spring and then it would be up to the volunteers to maintain it.”
“The other nice thing with Lamoureux Park – public events. Everything happens there. Canada Day. Ribfest. It’s a good education tool. People going down the bike path will see these (planter boxes). They can stop and grab something.”
The city would like to see the beds labelled so people know what’s in there, he said.
Feedback from the meeting will be in a report coming to city council for its endorsement.
If its endorsed, the project should be going next summer.