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Community Garden finds new home

Society signs 20-year lease with the owners of a close to two-acre plot within Town of Barrhead boundaries
Barrhead Community Garden Society spokesperson Marilyn Flock said that the new location for the garden will be behind the Pembina West Co-op food store. Here is an overhead graphic the society provided to the Town of Barrhead.

BARRHEAD - Barrhead's Community Garden has found a new home.

Earlier this winter, the Community Garden Society signed a lease with a local landowner securing its existence for the next 20 years.

The society found themselves potentially facing homelessness after their landlord told them in the spring of 2022 that they would have to find a new home for the next growing season.

The society was looking for about two acres of land, something within or relatively close to town that was readily accessible as many of the society's members are seniors, and they have often had area schools visit the site.

Community Garden Society treasurer and spokesperson Marilyn Flock said she had almost given up hope that they would find a new location when she contacted Oscar Daase and Edwin Winkler about a triangular close to two-acre parcel behind the Pembina West Co-op's food store.

"We were extremely fortunate to run across the property," she said, noting that she and a subcommittee had checked with several property owners in and near the town with land that would make a suitable garden site.

Although while many property owners were sympathetic and wanted a garden, Flock said they were not willing to give up the land.

For instance, she said, many farmers near the town told the society it would be too difficult for their operation to work around a garden.

Flock also noted they also wanted some longevity, saying the society did not want to be in the same position of looking for another site a year or two around the road.

"Not having that security makes things difficult, including finding funding. Those giving out grant money want to ensure that a project will be there for a while."

Flock admitted she initially discounted the property as it was behind the Co-op food store, thinking it was too low for their purpose. 

"I needed to walk around the corner and see that there was this little raised piece that would work," she said, adding she is pleased they found it and that Daase and Winkler were amenable. "They are very community oriented and gave us the lease for a dollar. If it weren’t for them, we probably would have been done.”

If for some reason Daase and Winkler do have to sell the property, Flock noted, the society has the option of first refusal and purchase to the parcel.

Even though the property is farmland, Flock said it still will take a lot of effort to make it into a producing garden.

She noted that in addition to approaching the town with a list of requests, the most notable was that they develop a machine-quality access road to help allow for the development of the site and for easy access for its members. The society will also approach the County of Barrhead council to discuss what they might be able to do to assist.

One of the needs, Flock said, is topsoil.

"You can't just start with an ordinary field, even if it is farmland. You will need extra topsoil and other things here and there such as peat," she said. "It usually takes two to three years to get it into garden shape soil deep enough to grow carrots and other vegetables like that." 

History of the Community Garden 

The Community Garden's future has been in flux for several years. Since the spring of 2013, they had been located on a five-acre plot of municipally-owned land on the west side of town, just north of the apartment buildings on 53rd Street home.

The Town of Barrhead had initially purchased the land and an adjacent parcel (about nine acres worth) to build a new aquatics centre.

But when the municipality decided to build the new swimming pool on the old site, the town started to focus its efforts to develop the property commercially. In October 2020, the municipality sold a three-acre parcel of the Schnieder Lands, including the Community Garden's portion.

It was the second time the Community Garden was asked to relocate. In the summer of 2018, the town gave the Community Garden until the spring to relocate. After extending it by an additional year, the agreement ended in November 2020.

The municipality deemed the move necessary after it decided to intensify its efforts to develop the property, engaging the Edmonton-based real estate firm Cushman and Wakefield to market the property.

In December 2018, councillors voted 6-1 that the Town of Barrhead enter into a 10-year agreement for the use of an undeveloped two-acre parcel of land at the intersection of 50 Avenue and West Boundary Road on the southwest corner of Beaver Brook Estates. The offer was later rescinded. 

The municipality also suggested a location in Millennium Park, but it never went past the preliminary stages. Part of the issue was that nearby residents started an informal petition against the garden being moved there, partly over concerns that it would attract crime.

Barry Kerton,


Barry Kerton

About the Author: Barry Kerton

Barry Kerton is the managing editor of the Barrhead Leader, joining the paper in 2014. He covers news, municipal politics and sports.
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