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Port Moody gardeners eager to get growing at new community gardens

Port Moody is getting two new community gardens that will include a total of 80 new plots for local gardeners to commune with the soil and each other.
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Lori Greyell, right, and Tabitha McLoughlin are ready to get their hands dirty at the new community garden planned for Port Moody's Art Wilkinson Park. The 60-plot garden is expected to be ready for planting in June.

Port Moody’s community gardens are already reaping a bountiful harvest — and it’s not even planting season yet.

March 23, council approved the construction of two new community gardens as pilot projects for the next five years: one a 20-plot tract on a patch of property in front of the city’s recreation centre between the parking lot and Ioco Road, and another 60-plot site at Art Wilkinson Park, in Port Moody’s Glenayre neighbourhood.

The latter is 50% larger than staff had initially recommended, and will cost the city up to $9,000 more than its proposed $53,000 budget for the new gardens. But the value of the new locations goes way beyond the price tag for constructing new beds and water hookups, said Lori Greyell, the coordinator of the Port Moody Police Department Community Garden that will manage the location in Art Wilkinson Park.

She said the 80 new plots in total will take the heat off a growing wait list of people hoping to secure a space in the city’s two existing community gardens, next to the city’s public safety building on St. Johns Street and at Rocky Point Park.

More importantly, though, the new gardens will help foster a greater sense of community at a time when people are feeling increasingly detached from each other because of the COVID-19 pandemic or just the demands of busy suburban life.

Greyell said community gardens attract a cross-section of people, from families and young couples looking for a break from their condo lifestyle to seniors reconnecting with an aspect of their lives they may have known long ago when the city was more rural and every home had room for an expansive plot of fertile soil. They are also multi-cultural, with immigrant members often sharing knowledge with fellow gardeners as they plant crops that harken back to their homeland.

She said the city’s current community gardeners are growing everything from black tomatoes and sunflowers to herbs, grapevines and even potatoes in stacked containers.

Tabitha McLoughlin, the executive director for the Grow Local Society, said community gardens are an important component of food security.

“You’re seeing an increasing interest in people who want to know where their food comes from,” she said.

McLoughlin added that sense of being able to rely on food sources has particularly resonated through the past year during the COVID-19 pandemic, as people endured lineups at grocery stores or worried about the supply chain when processing plants shut due to outbreaks of the contagion.

“The pandemic has shone a light on how fragile the food system is,” she said.

Even though shovels have yet to pierce the ground, Greyell said she has big plans for the new gardens that are expected to be ready by June. Some of the 62-square-foot plots will be dedicated to grow produce for the local food bank. Several will be wheelchair accessible. The proximity of a preschool and seniors residence to Art Wilkinson Park, as well as a very active neighbourhood association, will allow opportunities for educational outreach.

“It’s very exciting,” she said, adding a community information session will be convened to gauge demand for the new spaces. People still on the current waiting list for a plot will get first crack at signing up. If there’s more gardeners than gardens, then remaining plots will be distributed through a lottery.

Currently a plot in one of the city’s community gardens costs about $40 a year to help cover expenses.