Food-security group upset after city flattens community garden in Prince George

·2 min read
On Thursday, the City of Prince George commissioned bulldozers to flatten the Milburn Community Garden. (Local Food PG Society/Facebook - image credit)
On Thursday, the City of Prince George commissioned bulldozers to flatten the Milburn Community Garden. (Local Food PG Society/Facebook - image credit)

The City of Prince George has flattened a community garden in a municipal park, to the dismay of a local food-security advocacy group.

The city had removed some garden beds from Milburn Park last year, and on Thursday bulldozers cleared the remaining beds.

The plots were built by the Milburn Community Association in 1997, but the city says the association stopped renewing its licence in 2015. A city spokesperson says there have been no official agreements with any groups to use the site since then.

But Catharine Kendall, vice-president of the Local Food PG Society, says the Milburn Community Garden was being used by residents in the VLA neighbourhood to grow food for their own use, and the city's actions were insensitive to those struggling with food security.

"The [garden] beds are gone and the lawn is just bare dirt right now," Kendall told Sarah Penton, host of CBC's Radio West.

Kendall says VLA is a low-income neighbourhood with a high crime rate and a substantial Indigenous population. She says the community garden tool shed was frequented by people living with homelessness, and the facility was often visited by university students to learn about Indigenous plants.

More than 35 varieties of perennial plants were destroyed by the bulldozers, she said.

The Milburn Community Garden before it was levelled by bulldozers. The City of Prince George says it hasn't made any official agreement to allow any groups to build a community garden on the municipally owned land.
The Milburn Community Garden before it was levelled by bulldozers. The City of Prince George says it hasn't made any official agreement to allow any groups to build a community garden on the municipally owned land.(Google Streetview)

In a written statement to CBC News, city spokesperson Michael Kellett said staff had received complaints about safety concerns in the community garden after needles were found at the site and the garden tool shed was burned down several years ago.

"Public green spaces on city property are for all residents to enjoy," Kellett said.

He said the city initially planned to bulldoze the entire site last year but decided to postpone to allow people to harvest their planted food first.

In a letter to city council on Friday, Local Food PG Society said it had applied for a municipal grant in March to keep the Milburn Community Garden running.

Kellett's statement didn't address the society's grant application. It said the city had intended to issue a licence last summer to a user of the community garden, but that member didn't co-sign an agreement with a non-profit organization or a community association as required by the city.

The Milburn Community Garden served neighbours who are mostly low-income families, the Local Food PG Society says.
The Milburn Community Garden served neighbours who are mostly low-income families, the Local Food PG Society says.(Betsy Trumpener/CBC )

The society is demanding the city provide the grant and a nearby location for building a new community garden.

"[The community garden] really was about bringing a community together, and that's really what the community gardens provide," Kendall said.

Tap the link below to hear Catharine Kendall's interview on Radio West: