Alexandra Neighbourhood House’s Neil Fernyhough stands on the site of a soon-to-be community garden.

Alexandra Neighbourhood House’s Neil Fernyhough stands on the site of a soon-to-be community garden.

Growing a sense of community

Volunteers working on South Surrey garden site set to open this spring

Standing in the mud, with piles of branches and shrubs littering the lot, Neil Fernyhough acknowledges the view isn’t the most appealing.

But he knows the potential for the lot, located at the corner of 128 Street and 25 Avenue, is incredible.

The manager of community programs at Alexandra Neighbourhood House is spearheading a project that will transform the green space into a community garden.

The lot, adjacent to Kiwanis Park Place, has been leased to Alex House by Crescent Housing Society, and will include between 40-50 plots – some of which will be accessible to those with disabilities.

Funding to complete the garden is being provided through the federal New Horizons for Seniors Program and the Peace Arch Hospital Foundation.

Currently, Fernyhough said, there is one community garden located at Alexandra Neighbourhood House, however, due to demand, members can only have the plot for three years.

“People objected. So I said, if we could increase the community garden capacity in the area, there wouldn’t have to be a limit,” Fernyhough explained.

One of the gardeners, who resides at Kiwanis Park Place, offered to speak to the general manager about turning the green space beside the housing complex into a second garden.

Less than a year later, site preparation on the property is almost finished, with arboreal work nearly completed, as well as the removal of invasive species, including holly, blackberry and ivory.

The trees that were removed will be chipped and used as fill, and will later be replaced – and then some – with new trees that will perform double-duty, providing screening to residents who live north of the soon-to-be garden.

“There will be other amenities, including a shed, a pathway around the perimeter with benches, nature interpretation signs and (newly planted) native species, like dogwood and hazelnut,” Fernyhough said, adding that there will also be birdhouses and beehives to attract pollinators.

And while on its face the project is a beautiful garden, Fernyhough noted that the main focus is to foster a sense of community.

One aspect will be intergenerational interaction with nearby Crescent Park Elementary.

By having the seniors and students come together, the result will be more than gardening.

“The idea is that we’re facilitating it to happen. It’s a community-engagement project to us. The food security and the gardening aspect serves that larger purpose of community development,” he said.

“We view community gardens as being a natural locus for being of diverse backgrounds to come together over a shared interest – food.”

The ambitious project is scheduled to complete by April 2015, just in time for garden season.

To stick to that timeline, volunteers are needed to build garden boxes, fill the boxes with soil, put the shed in place and work on clearing a trail for the path.

Those interested in requesting a plot, volunteering to help with the hands-on work for the garden or volunteering as a member of the garden committee can contact Fernyhough at 604-535-0015, ext. 236 or by email at communityprograms@alexhouse.net