New West council clears a path for community garden

The front lawn of city hall will be transformed as the Garden at City Hall aims to get off the ground this summer.

Members of New Westminster Environmental Partners approached city council last year about the idea of allowing them to build and maintain a community garden on the front lawn of city hall near Sixth Street, for a two-year trial period. The Garden at City Hall, as the project has been dubbed, will be located near the Royal Avenue and Fourth Street corner of the front lawn, across from Tipperary Park.

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“I am supportive of this project. I would like to see it happen. I think something needs to happen on the front lawn on city hall – there’s just too much grass for my liking,” said Coun. Mary Trentadue. “I am concerned about the cost. It’s high.”

A staff report estimates the project would cost $43,000, with the city contributing $23,000 for pedestrian pathways, water services and site preparation, and New Westminster Environmental Partners providing $20,000 for planter boxes, growing medium, a tool shed and equipment. The non-profit group has secured $850 for the project and is pursuing additional grant funding.

Members of the New Westminster Environmental Partners’ garden working group are “thrilled” with the design, but noted the project has grown in scope from what they originally anticipated.

“While we are striving to fundraise $25,910 to be able to build the community garden the city would like to see, this is a large amount for a community group to fundraise,” the group said in a letter to council. “As the scope has changed significantly and the city has added requirements on the durability of the site and the need to have the project officially tendered and contracted, we are asking for additional help from the city to build the garden.”

The design concept for the community garden envisions 12 raised garden plots, a tool shed with adjoining composting bins, a water supply for irrigation and interconnecting pathways to facilitate access to and within the site. As the garden would be located on a sloping site, the planters would address concerns about potential washout of the gardens during heavy rains.

While staff had recommended an option that would have seen the city working with New Westminster Environmental Partners to secure grant funding, refining the project design and cost and aiming to include the project in next year’s capital budget, council preferred to get the project off the ground this year. Council unanimously approved a recommendation to cover New Westminster Environmental Partners’ share of the project and have the group reimburse the city over time as funds are raised from other sources.

 “I’d really like to look at doing this sooner rather than later,” said Coun. Chuck Puchmayr. “If there’s a way we can, I’m there.”

A staff report notes that the project isn’t included in the city’s 2017 budget program, so funding would have to be redirected from other projects or found through savings in current capital project in order to proceed this year.

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