Kimberley City Council had a long discussion at their regular session on Tuesday, May 25, 2021, about the potential for a community garden in McDougal Park. Council did vote, with Coun. Kyle Dalum against, to go ahead with a license of occupation with the Kimberley Edible Garden & Greenhouse group to allow for a garden.
Council received a great deal of correspondence from Townsite residents, who had concerns with a portion of the park being used as a garden.
Many were concerned with taking away any park land for any reason, there was concern that other community gardens in Kimberley had been unsightly, and a major concern was that Townsite residents felt that they had not been consulted. Many also mentioned that the park had been neglected.
Speaking first was Coun. Nigel Kitto who said he had lived in Townsite for 12 years and had never been approached by anyone with ideas for the park..
“I’m quite surprised changing the use caused such alarm,” he said.
Kitty said that he considered gardening recreation and it would be a good use of the park. He added that Mcdougal Park belonged to all Kimberley residents, not just Townsite folks.
Kitto agreed that the park had been neglected and said he wished the city had the budget to bring the park up to the standard it deserved, but that was not the case.
He also pointed out that the garden would take up only four per cent of the park’s area. He mentioned that the lawn bowling area was fenced off from the rest of the park and there was no concern about that, and that when the pool was open there would have been plenty of noise and activity.
Kimberley Edible Garden & Greenhouse (KEGG) came to council with a well prepared plan, he said.
Kitto’s final point was that the licence of occupation was a safety net. If the garden didn’t work out in any manner, he said, the licence could be cancelled.
“There’s more than enough space for everyone,” he said. “We just have to learn to share.”
Many other councillors echoed Kitto’s thoughts, especially around the safety net the licence of occupation provided.
Councillors Jason McBain and Sandra Roberts both grew up in Townsite and said they valued the park very much, and any comment that they didn’t care was simply not true.
“My sledding hill in Townsite is now an apartment building,” McBain said. “Things change.”
Count. Roberts also pointed out that the KEGG people were not involved with the community garden at Centennial Hall which became unsightly, but as part of the agreement, they were willing to clean that area up.
“Let’s give these folks a chance,” she said.
All councillors expressed appreciation to those who had written letters and assured them they were heard.
“I appreciate the level of passion and I read everything,” Coun. Darryl Oakley said. “But the licence of occupation has a 30 day exit clause and it’s four per cent of the land base. I support the garden.”
Coun. Dallum said that he was voting against it only because he felt moving the garden slightly to the south and east would ease a lot of concerns and also that he felt KEGG hadn’t properly communicated with the residents.
Coun. Kent Goodwin urged the people who wrote letters to stay organized and continue to come up with ideas but he also said that KEGG were well meaning people who came to council with a reasonable request.
“Let’s let KEGG give it a try,” he said.
Mayor Don McCormick said that after reading all the correspondence he felt there were three issues raised, one being community gardens being unsightly.
The second point, he said, which he found a little disappointing, was that the majority were in favour of gardens just not in their backyard.
The third issue he said, was the perception that there was a lack of consultation. He said the work of council would grind to a halt if there was community consultation on every issue.
“Generally speaking there is no broad consultation on minor changes to a city asset. We rely on the proponent to put out a communication plan and KEGG got off to a late start, but I’m sure they will put forward more details soon.”
He thanked everyone for writing letters and being part of the process.
“You have been heard,” he said.