Context and the Cottonwood and Strathcona Community Gardens; Not Just Another Garden Plot

Caitlin Bryant 2013 HSBy Caitlin Bryant, Groundswell cohort member This afternoon at 2pm, Wednesday, October 21, 2015, Vancouver City Council will receive a presentation regarding the removal of the Georgia and Dunsmuir Viaducts. Depending on the outcome, the Cottonwood and Strathcona Community Garden could be greatly affected if not reduced or displaced. It is understood that there approximately three options on the table for re-routing of the viaduct traffic and expanding False Creek Flats development and the possibility of taking space from the gardens and park is included in at least one of them. In particular the Malkin Avenue option -- as shown on pg. 9 and 14, of the Removal of the Georgia and Dunsmuir Viaducts proposal (http://former.vancouver.ca/ctyclerk/cclerk/20151020/documents/rr1presentation.pdf) and is referenced in the False Creek Flats Planning Program (http://vancouver.ca/home-property-development/false-creek-flats.aspx)

Strathcona Community GardenThe Context Part...

If you have ever stepped foot in the Cottonwood and Strathcona Community Gardens, then you know how special it is. Nestled on a total of seven acres of reclaimed land between the main traffic arteries of Clark Drive, Prior Street, Heatley Avenue and Malkin Avenue; It is a completely unexpected -and unsurpassed- oasis smack-dabb in the middle of inner-city Vancouver.

But, the importance of this plot of land is not only tied to urban food security and public green-space (as if that wasn't enough!) The Cottonwood and Strathcona Community Garden is also a place of historical community importance. Located on unseeded Coast Salish territories, the land's post-colonial development history spans the 1840's as a tidal flat and natural estuary to a homeless encampment during the 1930's to a social activism, food security intervention in the 1980's to the ecological oasis of present.  Follow this link (http://strathconagardens.ca/history/) for a historical timeline of the gardens from the 1840's-1970's and check out this page for more recent history.

To this day the gardens continue to represent a place for community programming, education, and action. Take The Cultch's 2013, Connect The Plots Youth Theatre Project (http://www.straight.com/arts/409311/connect-plots-stage-garden-gets-growing) for example. This one of a kind "youth in the arts" leadership project could have only existed within the eco-system of the community garden. Working with The Purple Thistle and the Environmental Youth Alliance, who both regularly use the gardens, they created their own inter-woven stories about the community building that happens between neighbours and strangers over our garden plots. Inspired by their surroundings, they chose to focus on issues like sustainable environmental practices, intergenerational relationship building, agriculture and public green space, and social and environmental activism. Their art and project development was directly informed by the land and, in turn, they literally grew their stages and props. Can you think of anywhere else in inner-city Vancouver where this is possible? I can't.

 

In Vancouver we are quite concerned with being recognized as "green" and "innovative". Spaces like the Cottonwood and Strathcona Community Gardens already put Vancouver on the map as a world-class, sustainable, innovative, and beautiful city. We just need to make sure we protect and celebrate these places of historical community importance.

 

The Call to Action Part (again):

I urge you to communicate with City Planners and Mayor and Council, requesting that they ensure that the removal of the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts leaves the Cottonwood and Strathcona Community Gradens 100% intact and unobstructed for the use of our community -- for me, for you, your kids, and for your dogs, for generations to come. Don't worry if you've missed the deadline of 2pm on Wednesday, October 21. It's never too late to share what an incredible space this is with your civic leaders. They work for us, after all.

 

You can contact Holly Sovdi, Planner, Vancouver – Downtown, at 604.871.6330. You can also communicate your preferences directly to Vancouver's Mayor and Council by emailing mayorandcouncil@vancouver.ca.