13 November 2012
COPE issues letter of support to community gardeners in Strathcona
The Coalition of Progressive Electors has issued a letter of support to the Cottonwood, Strathcona, and Purple Thistle community gardeners. Their gardens are currently under the threat of redevelopment, by the proposed removal of the viaducts and the construction of new roads.
COPE Parks Committee Chair Anita Romaniuk said: “When there were five COPE Parks Board Commissioners, we renewed the leases on these gardens because we felt they were important to the neighbourhood. A COPE council and parks board would not pave over the gardens.” There is already a shortage of park land on the East Side and this would exacerbate it.
COPE is committed to permanent community gardens, especially for those who use the food produced to supplement their incomes. The community fought hard for these gardens and they should be protected by the City of Vancouver.
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On behalf of the Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE), we would like to express our support for retaining the existing community gardens in the Strathcona neighbourhood, which are threatened by the proposed widening of the Malkin and/or Prior roadways as part of the plan to demolish the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts.
These gardens provide an oasis of green space, complementing and enhancing the recreational public land in adjacent Strathcona Park. They provide a measure of food security for low income people and youth. Their history of being established by community activism is part of the heritage of the neighbourhood, and it should be recognized that the right-of-way along Malkin that forms part of the Cottonwood Gardens is a legacy of the successful organization by residents of Strathcona and supporters in Vancouver to stop a freeway that would have reduced Strathcona to a sad remnant split by a traffic conduit. The plan to demolish the viaducts, the last vestige of the unfinished freeway, should not replace it with a wide thoroughfare of cars and trucks that would destroy the gardens and reduce the liveability of the neighbourhood.
Proposals by Vision City Councillors to “mitigate” the loss of any of these gardens by relocating them are not sufficient. These gardens are self-sustaining and include features such as a fruit tree orchard in Strathcona and sizeable trees in Cottonwood which are not easily replaced. The area comprised by the three community gardens is considerable. If the city government follows its recent trend of encouraging developers to install community gardens, either on unused land that is pending development, or as part of a new development, in return for tax breaks or density allowances, the gardens will be smaller, geographically scattered, and their security tied to the developer.
The five COPE Parks Commissioners who served on the Park Board from 2002-2005 voted to extend the leases of Strathcona and Cottonwood Gardens on the portion of the gardens under Park Board jurisdiction, in recognition of their importance to this neighbourhood:
COPE urges City Council to instruct staff to seek alternatives to traffic management should the viaducts be demolished. These gardens and the neighbourhood surrounding them should not be sacrificed to a grandiose development in an adjacent part of the city.
COPE Parks Committee Chair
COPE Council Committee Chair