Previewing & reviewing new agriculture park

Update, Dec. 8: The open house for the new agricultural park was informative, and the people who were staffing it were informative and genuinely interested. Thank you, Dave Semple and Jamie Esko and others! Where I had written questions in this post, I’ve now added update answers in this colour.

There’s a Richmond “public open house” coming up for “The Gardens Agriculture Park,” and I’m writing both to promote it and to ask questions.

The Gardens Agriculture Park Open House is on Wednesday, December 8, 2010, 5:00–8:00 p.m. It is at South Arm Community Centre, 8880 Williams Road (south side of Williams, just west of Garden City Road).

Mysteriously, the Richmond website mentions neither the event nor anything else about the park. There’s just a notice in the local papers. In case you missed it, here’s the description:

The redevelopment of the former Fantasy Gardens lands includes the creation of a new city park, The Gardens Agricultural Park. A plan has been developed for the 12.2 acres of former botanical gardens. The City of Richmond invites you to review the plan and to provide comment. City staff will be available to answer questions.

Perhaps the plan itself will answer some of my questions such as these:

  • Will it allow for at least as many community garden plots as there were before the provincial government sold the land for Bota Gardens?

Note: Richmond’s De Whalen wrote a fascinating account of the 1970s community allotment garden for the Agricultural Land Commission. De coordinated the community garden, and there were 300 plots. At today’s plot sizes, that would take one hectare, which is about 2.5 acres.

Dec. 8 update: The plans show a community garden area of about 1.25 acres. That would enable about 150 plots, half the 1970s number. It would be particularly good for residents of  the “The Gardens,” the development on the southern part of the old Fantasy Gardens site. Besides being able to walk in the park, they could easily grow organic produce there in the community garden, as could residents of the townhomes west of No. 5 Road on the north side of Steveston Highway.

  • Will it include incubator farms for novice farmers?

Note: The Richmond Farm School led by Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s Dr. Kent Mullinix prepares new farmers, but they need land where they can get started, and the City of Richmond has expressed willingness to help. Small farms of an acre or two would be sufficient.

Dec. 8 update: If all goes well, the Farm School students and graduates will be farming an area that looks like around 3 acres in the southeast part of the park. There are various possibilities, and it seems to be a win-win for Kwantlen and Richmond.

  • Will it include botanical gardens like the Bota Gardens and their better known successor, Fantasy Gardens?

Note: Below is where it’s located—on No. 5 Road just north of the Coevorden Castle remnant of the old Fantasy Gardens.

Dec. 8 update: There will be flowers, but the pleasant surprise was the area with many kinds of trees on the western side of the southern part that were well looked after and have survived well on their own for many years. They can be restored with pruning  and identified with interpretive signs for visitors.

  • Any chance of tweaking the name, e.g., to “Fantasy Gardens Agriculture Park”?

Note: “Fantasy Gardens” is an established brand name and a fascinating part of our history. Surely one role for the new park is as a stop for agri-tourists, and it makes sense to take advantage of every kind of appeal. The park’s location near Highway 99 and Steveston Highway is a perfect spot for attracting tourists coming north from the border. They could stop at the park before proceeding north on the Highway to Heaven or west to Steveston.

Dec. 8 update: That seems to be possible. The Fantasy Gardens name seems popular, and the reasoning for just calling the park “The Gardens” (followed by “Agricultural Park”) was not convincing. This is a sort of litmus test. If the listening that was going on was as genuine as I think it was, the Fantasy Gardens name and other alternative names will be seriously considered. (I’m just saying “seriously considered,” not chosen. Realistically, partisan polical thinking and “politically correct” thinking are likely to triumph over the heritage value and tourism value that I have in mind.)

  • Does Richmond make the best use of public input in the planning of its agricultural parks?

Note: In planning Terra Nova Rural Park, the Richmond parks people consulted the appropriate people, not all the people, and the results are wonderful. There may be a different approach with the new park, and that’s fine if the results are wonderful again. I’m especially interested because there will come a time for planning and developing the Garden City Lands park, and we naturally hope that the results will be as good as the ongoing results at Terra Nova.

Dec. 8 update: Not only did the Parks Department appear to be listening to the community. It also appeared to be listening to what the physical nature and historical aspects of the property are saying. It is the opposite of the inane approach of a couple of councillors who seem to think that the best approach to the Garden City Lands is to treat the property as a blank slate that one can design by whim.

Dec. 11 update: A thorough insightful comment from Bruno has just been added right below this post, and it’s definitely worth reading, especially if you believe in permaculture and/or would like to learn more about its application. As well, I suggest that the agricultural park be integrated with the adjacent Van Coevorden castle (a scaled-down replica of the castle of the probable ancestral home in Coevorden, Netherlands, of Captain George Vancouver, whose surname is thought to be an Anglicized version of “van Coevorden”). There is great potential for heritage tourism and agri-tourism, and the integration would have symbiotic value.

Note, added Jan. 25, 2011: Coevorden is pronounced COO-vor-dən, with the main stress on the first syllable and with the unstressed final syllable including the schwa sound (the minimal vowel sound that often occurs in unstressed syllables that are quickly spoken in the English language). It is almost like saying COO-vor-dn.

Another note added Jan. 25, 2011: After finally learning the correct pronunciation of Coevorden, I googled further and found the fascinating story of how the Coevorden Castle replica appeared in Vancouver in time for Expo 86 in a clever piece of Dutch marketing. Presented right, that would add to the tourism potential too. It’s in “The Dutch cheesed off at Vancouver?“.


1 Comment »

  1. 1
    Bruno Says:

    My first impression is that it has some of the hallmarks of permaculture design … i am impressed … it is quite a frugal solution but that is good: sustainable solutions tend to be frugal.

    Here is a list of features I liked:

    – recycling existing flora, ponds, and architecture,
    – diverting water from the development area to the ponds for bio-remediation prior to irrigation,
    – promised Leed-silver equivalent construction of the “village”
    – possible public participation in maintaining the existing flora which includes some 800 trees!
    – barn to be used for Terra Nova Barn style community workshops
    – proposed incubator farm areas in collaboration with Kwantlen and/or UBC
    – greenway (cyclist and pedestrian)along the arterials
    – clearly enlightened people — city staff and developer (Townline) staff — presenting the project
    – re-using existing infrastructure and flora
    – some intentions to integrate with the ALR under-utilized backyards of the neighbouring church properties … such as by adding more incubator farms (win-win: the ALR lots get farmed, new farmers acquire experience)

    what I think is missing:

    – better public transit along number 5 and steveston
    – CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) Food Co-op and/or
    – pocket market or farmer market
    – proper pedestrian/cyclist access to the other side hwy #1 (easy access to that fruit/veg store)
    – plans to replace expensive-to-maintain flower-beds and any dying exotic ornamental trees with model multi-level food forest with variety of appropriate species easy to replicate throughout Richmond Parks and private lots.
    – re-design the “village” as a true Co-Housing project or Eco-village complete with alternative energy source and zero waste management

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