Future of Carleton’s community garden inconclusive after second emergency meeting

By: Kirsten Fenn
Carleton’s Graduate Students’ Association (GSA) remains undecided on whether to continue fighting for their community garden or accept the university’s plans to replace it with a private residence. The GSA held a second emergency meeting Nov. 20 to address their plan of action with garden members and Carleton students.

By: KIRSTEN FENN

jhr_logo_large_globe1.jpgCarleton’s Graduate Students’ Association (GSA) remains undecided on whether to continue fighting for their community garden or accept the university’s plans to replace it with a private residence.

The GSA held a second emergency meeting Nov. 20 to address their plan of action with garden members and Carleton students.

In October, the university announced plans to build a private, for-profit residence over the garden by 2016, to accommodate the growing number of students attending Carleton. The GSA said they were caught off guard by the announcement and hadn’t been consulted on the decision.

GSA president Grant MacNeil said when the contract for the garden was signed between the GSA and the administration, the GSA was under the impression that any relocation of the garden would come years down the line.

The university has proposed that the current garden be uprooted and a new one be built behind the Nesbitt Biology Building and River Field.

The Kitigànensag GSA garden was constructed north of Leeds residence in the spring of 2012 to provide students with space to grow their own food on campus. Its first growing season began in May 2013.

Fresh produce from the garden is provided to the Carleton University Students’ Association’s (CUSA) Food Centre when available.

The garden was also blessed and named by an Algonquin elder at the beginning of its first harvest. MacNeil said the garden is intended to be a site of decolonization, as the university is located on unceded Algonquin territory.

Chris Bisson, manager of the garden, said there are several problems with the new site that would need to be addressed before a new garden could be constructed.

The site is located on a flood plane and is home to an invasive plant species called dog-strangling vine, which can only be combatted with herbicides. The soil is also harsh for growing plants.

“In order to transform the site to growing capacity, there would be significant amendments to the soil needed,” Bisson said.

“The cheapest and simplest way of doing this is to keep our current garden.”

The new site may be able to accommodate more garden plots, Bisson said.

But with winter coming, it is unlikely a new garden will be built in time for next year’s growing season.

“The university has this idea they can just pick up the garden and drop it somewhere else,” said Phil Robinson, GSA executive coordinator.

Some students at the meeting said the GSA should fight to keep the original garden space. They said the university isn’t considerate of the hundreds of volunteer hours put into building the garden, or how its organic design promotes sustainability, one of the university’s long-term goals for campus.

GSA president Grant MacNeil said the new location poses safety risks because of its secluded location and lack of lighting. It may also pose a problem for wheelchair accessibility, while the current garden is fully accessible, he said.

“These aren’t just passing considerations. They’re obvious things that need to be addressed before we can even consider a move,” MacNeil said.

The university administration was absent from the meeting.

Jan Patterson, administer at the office of Duncan Watt, Carleton’s vice-president of finance, said the university administration will be speaking with the GSA about their concerns in the coming weeks, after a meeting is arranged.

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