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City staff have approved a community garden application for Ed Taylor Park, the first since policies were updated for gardens in city parks.

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The Ed Taylor Park Community Collective was granted a one-year term, renewable possibly for a three-year term. It’s in the neighbourhood below the 10th Street East extension, which passes to the south of the park. Its address is 1120 12th Ave. E.

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The garden will cover 345 square metres, now a grassy area where a ball diamond once was, with the opportunity to expand by up to 457 square metres more. It’s in the northeast quadrant of the park.

Simona Freibergova shepherded the application through the city’s requirements on behalf of a few residents who live near the park. She said the city process was so long and involved that she said she doubted residents could do it alone.

She founded The Sustainability Project Inc., a non-profit, to support community gardens in Grey-Bruce, she said. This is the third community garden she’s started in four years. She was approached by residents for help, she said.

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Six people belong to the Ed Taylor Park Community Collective and are responsible for the garden operations, in keeping with an agreement expected to be signed with the city Oct. 12.

Freibergova said berries will be planted along the north and west sides of the garden in berms constructed of logs, leaves and other organic matter, topped with humus which all nourishes the bushes while reducing the need for watering — a method known at hugelkultur.

Once the agreement is signed, a cattle fence will be erected around the garden area this year, with the help of a park neighbour who is a carpenter and other community members, Freibergova said.

Materials will be purchased with a $3,000 grant from the Community Foundation. Next year, four-by-eight-foot planter boxes will be built, with planting in spring. Vegetables will be planted in the boxes.

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Conventional garden beds will be dug in the northeast corner of the garden, with the boxes in the centre, a children’s garden and herb garden along the south side and an Indigenous garden with tobacco, sage and sweet grass in the southwest.

There’ll be a place to sit and rainwater will be collected from the roof of a tool shed for irrigation, at least until city water can be brought to the site, the 26-page staff report said. Paths and signs are included in the design, Freibergova said.

She said the garden is for local neighbours but it’s also for everyone else. To succeed, it will need “a determined and engaged community to work together,” Freibergova said. The goal is to grow food, socialize, be outdoors and improve inter-generational connections, she said.

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There’s a city grant which would cover half the cost of bringing municipal water to the site, up to $5,000, which staff generally support for this garden. But it’s not available during the first year, so installation would be 2025 at the earliest.

The garden collective will pay for any municipal water it uses, it must sign a liability waiver and have insurance which covers the city against liability. While there’s no proposal to do so, the agreement forbids growing pot plants or psilocybin-producing mushrooms.

After council turned down a community garden in a small city park near Hillcrest Elementary School due to community concerns in July 2021, it resolved to update city policies about such gardens.

Council adopted a policy which guides the placement and operation of community gardens and gives staff approval authority. If proposals fit the policy, no public engagement process would be triggered.

Visit the community gardens page of the city’s website for eligible locations and other details or call city planner Jocelyn Wainwright at 519-376-4440, ext. 1250 or email her at [email protected].

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