By Jean Ann Berkenpas

Volunteers have been hard at work. Ten new raised beds are in place, but more work needs to be done to plant, mulch between beds, and finish construction of the children’s play area and gazebo. /Jean Ann Berkenpas

Robson Valley Community Services (RVCS) has taken over management of the Valemount Community Garden, an underused space behind Valemount Secondary School. The garden is undergoing a spring transformation. This comes at a time when public interest in gardening is at a high point. With more people staying home this summer and food security at the forefront of many people’s minds, gardening is seeing a resurgence in popularity.

The garden before RVCS started the revitalization project this spring. /PHOTOS SUBMITTED

The community garden was previously started and used by the Valemount Secondary School gardening class taught by Dan Lawless. However, since much of the outdoor growing season takes place during summer holidays, the students instead spend the bulk of their time in the school greenhouse and on indoor growing projects during the spring. The high school principal Derrick Shaw is supportive of RVCS taking over management of the garden.

The transformation taking place includes the removal of weathered garden beds, and the construction of new, taller, cedar beds. These are made to be comfortable for work without back bending and therefore accessible to a greater range of users.

While RVCS is paying for the project, the community has been generous in the donation of much of the labor and supplies. New construction of garden beds and a children’s sandbox were done by Shawn Thompson, Jared Pietz, and Owen Dean. Donated supplies include a huge pile of wood mulch from Cedar Valley Holdings. Loads of manure, old hay and the muscle to move them were provided by Willow Ranch. Thunder Valley Towing and

Graham Darragh provided trucking services to deliver soil, and Canadian Mountain Holidays supplied the use of their machine along with labor to help with moving soil. Many others have contributed their labor and expertise.
Currently there are 10 new raised garden beds for the 2020 growing season. Three will be used by RVCS as a part of the Food Literacy Program and Supported Child Development Program, according to RVCS. These may be used for teaching, day-programs and of course to provide food to community members and organizations that feed people in need. Seven other boxes will be available for individuals in the community.

New soil being loaded for delivery to the community garden.

RVCS is in a unique position to manage this resource in the community, with multiple programs and staff members according to Lina Thompson, Executive Director of RVCS. She says the vision for the garden is for it to be used by many different groups. Aside from the obvious connection to food security and literacy, the garden will also be used by children’s programming and hopefully families and seniors. The new design is intended to make the space more accessible and welcoming. A shaded gazebo area is also in the works, with hopes that it can be a multi-use space for teaching, yoga, and just enjoying the garden.

Amy Gerig transplanting seedlings into the new garden beds /Rena O’Brien

The garden is on land owned by the Village of Valemount, with RVCS’s Licence to Occupy in progress. The bulk of the garden infrastructure, as well as insurance, is being paid for by RVCS.
Community members interested in signing up for a garden bed should contact Jana MacMaster or Rena O’Brien to sign up at [email protected] . Use of a garden bed for the season is free of charge and anyone in the community can apply to use a space. Priority will be given to those who do not have a gardening space of their own, or who are in need of fresh produce.

Due to COVID regulations, RVCS will be ensuring that users adhere to physical distancing regulations in the garden.

While construction and planting is underway, there is also a need for additional help, donations and expertise. Supplies that are still required include pea gravel, plants, seeds, and people willing to share in the work of constructing, planting and labor of putting it all together.