When Ann-Julie Rhéaume and her friends pitched in to buy a 1989 Chevrolet pickup truck, they had no intention of driving it. Frustrated with the lack of green space in their neighborhood, they decided to create their own — in the back of the run-down pickup truck.
"One night, we realized that, as residents, we're entitled to one of the on-street parking spots so we [thought we] could put it to better use by making a garden," said Rhéaume.
The truck is parked on Cartier Street in the city of Montcalm, Que., outside her home. The other three members of the Camion Jardin project also live nearby, in Montcalm and Saint-Jean-Baptiste.
All four members of the group are tenants in the area, and didn't have access to garden spaces in their homes.
It only took a week for them to put their plans into motion, once they got the idea. They began searching online for a cheap vehicle and split the cost. They then filled the bed of the truck with crushed stone and soil, and got to gardening.
There are nearly 50 plants growing in the truck: tomatoes, onions, cucumbers and sunflowers to name just a few. Unlike many gardens, this one isn't fenced off, but Rhéaume welcomes the idea of neighbours grabbing a vegetable here and there.
Making a statement
Aside from giving the four a place to garden, the truck also acts as a social statement.
"We believe there's a lot of potential in a lot of this space," said Rhéaume, adding that the space currently dedicated to parking could be used for gardens, parks, housing and shops.
The four members of the group don't use a car to get around the city, and would like to see others do the same. They believe that parking is taking up too much room in the city.
Rhéaume says that feedback in the area has been overwhelmingly positive, and has allowed them to have conversations with many new faces. One neighbour even liked the project so much that they gifted a pot of flowers to them.
She said the group has gotten some backlash on social media, however, with people telling them they should just move to the suburbs.
"I think residents of the neighborhood here deserve the space, at least as much as outsiders who just want to park their cars," Rhéaume said in response to those comments.
"Other people say that [it is] vital to economic activity to have parking, but this has been proven wrong many times by researchers as well."