Oak Bay’s allotment gardens are expanding. With the recent clearing of the land on the south side of Bowker Creek, space was created for a dozen new garden plots. Given the expansion, Oak Bay Parks and Rec thought it would be a good time to talk about the future of the allotment gardens with many the existing and wait listed allotment gardeners. The discussion covered a number of possibilities, including standardizing size of the beds, the creation of an association to help govern the gardens and more.
The two most contentious ideas, that of shrinking the beds to a standard size and of a 3-year rotation plan were both roundly rejected by both existing and wait listed plot holders. The benefit of shrinking to a standardized 6.5′ x 17′ is that it would allow 38 plots in the space of the existing 12. Both of these proposals were felt to be disrespectful of existing users who have spent years improving the soil.
In many other municipalities, an association governs the allotment gardens, so the idea was raised of creating something similar in Oak Bay. There was a lot of discussion around the pros and cons of such a scheme with no clear consensus. Regardless of that, the current plot holders will be asked to nominate an informal spokesperson to liaise staff.
When the question of costs came up, it was quickly made clear that the current $15/year was too low to cover the nearly $800/year cost of running the gardens, $340 of which is the water bill alone. With the price set to rise to $30/year, the current plot holders wanted access to year-round washroom in Fireman’s Park and possibly a fence to keep out people and deer.
With the current wait list at 25 and an average wait of 7 years, the question of expanding beyond Monteith St. has come up many times. Many areas of the municipality might be able to host to new allotment gardens, including areas such as Fireman’s Park just across the street to Uplands Park to the green space by the track at Oak Bay High School. All of these are and a few more were raised as possibilities, although there are many obstacles between now and the first shovel hitting the ground.
One of the current plot holders mentioned that the allotment gardens have never really been advertised, so their knowledge has mostly spread through word of mouth. This lack of knowledge is also probably only Councillor Ney and myself were the only spectators as it were. Everybody else at the meeting was either directly involved with Parks, either as staff or on the commission, a current plot holder or on the wait list.
Both the Minutes and Recommendations (both PDF) are available. The next step is for the recommendations to go to the Parks and Recreation Commission, who can make the decisions necessary. They meet next at 7pm on February 3rd, 2010 in the Council Chambers at Oak Bay Municipal Hall.