Spring Ridge Commons – Linda Chan’s Perspective (Long Version)

History of Linda Chan’s Involvement:

Linda - SRC  Photo   (Oct 10,  2010)

Linda Chan first became involved with Spring Ridge Commons on Oct 10, 2010  at the 350.org Global Work Party at Spring Ridge Commons.   Transition Victoria Food Group had chosen Spring Ridge Commons as one of their two project (The Capital Nut Tree Project being the other one) and on this day she became the Coordinator for Spring Ridge Commons and one of its Primary Stewards.   For 8 months,  Transition Victoria Food Group met once a month for a planning meeting followed by a work party in the Commons.   Early in our stewardship Feb 2011,  Lee Herrin, Executive Director of the Fernwood NRG (leaseholder for Spring Ridge Commons) received a letter from VIHA regarding rats on site at Spring Ridge Commons and notified our group of this  – A cone container had been brought on site by someone as an invasive plant receptacle and a visitor to the Commons mistook it for a place to drop food remains.  As well, Petal to Pedal was using the composter on site and it became very anaerobic and the composter was riddled with holes.  Rats were seen running around in the Common. … Our group quickly rectified this situation — got rid of the cone receptacle, curtailed Pedal to Petal contract on site, made the compost less anaerobic, placed wire mesh around the holes, and secured the composter with a combination lock.  Eventually the composter became a place to store tools, etc.  In March 2011, we held a  work party which was co-hosted by Integreen Action First.  Here is the you tube video.    During this time, Linda also created a Word Press site (re-created in Oct 2014)  and a Facebook page ( changed from a Person to Community Page in March 2015 )  for Spring Ridge Commons.   In 2014,  Twitter, Linked-In and Pinterest  Accounts were created for Spring Ridge Commons.

In June 2012,  in part due to strained relationships with Lee Herrin, Executive Director of the Fernwood NRG, Transition Victoria disentangled itself from the Spring Ridge Commons Project  .  In its place, the Friends of Spring Ridge Commons Society was formed in July 2012 by members of the Fernwood Community Association and supporters of the Commons for the following purposes

a.  To preserve and protect the Spring Ridge Common(s) as a community open space that is freely accessible to the neighbourhood and the larger community.
b.  To ensure the long-term viability and sustainability of the Common(s) as a community site, open to all by providing opportunities for people to experience community through shared management of the commons and hands-on knowledge sharing about permaculture design techniques and ecologically sound food growing practices.
c.  To provide a cultivated wild habitat in which birds, bees and other insects can thrive.
d.  To promote permaculture as well as other organic agricultural practices on the site.
e.  To preserve and protect fruit/production trees, shrubs, herbs and perennials that are free to harvest by all

Their primary concern at the time was that they felt that  Lee was wanting Spring Ridge Commons to be something other than a permaculture garden/ food forest (i.e.  redevelopment as affordable housing) after viewing “Fernwood University Lesson 2: Neighbourhood Power   (See 3.00 to 3.05) and they sought to protect this community open space.  The Friend of Spring Ridge Commons Society met until Dec 2013 and Linda is not sure what happen after this.  Currently the bank account is frozen waiting for a new group of directors to come on board.

Linda SRC Photo by Amy Zidulka   (Aug 2015)

Spring Ridge Commons is a very unique community open space.  It serves as a permaculture garden/food forest where people can freely pick and harvest berries, veggies and herbs.  (The concept of sharing is encouraged).  People come to Spring Ridge Commons and experience something that they don’t experience elsewhere in the city:  the opportunity to sit in nature,  see and listen to birds, hang out with friends, and pick figs, seabuckthorn,  plums or fresh herbs.  It is a special space where people are on equal footing – i.e. a homeless person can easily converse with a family; where people are free to play their instruments or  do Qi Gong.   Visitors to the Commons are varied and come for different reasons – parents may come with their kids and allow them to run and explore in the Commons;  another person may have their own backyard food forest and is keen get ideas from visiting the Commons.  People may discover Spring Ridge Commons as they walk or cycle in Fernwood;  People living close by may bring their friends or relatives from afar to show them the Commons.

 

Stewardship of Spring Ridge Commons:

Spring Ridge Commons has had times when its flourished and times when it has suffered over its 15 + years of existence.  It flourishes when groups or individuals have taken it among themselves to commit to maintain and protect this community space.   For example, now that Spring Ridge Commons is in good shape (regular maintenance to keep Spring Ridge Commons neat + tidy and the plant growth under control) and there is frequent surveillance (Sean riding through or by the Commons,  people geocaching, people walking through the Commons, neighbors/police  able to see through the Commons due to clear site lines),  people are very curious about this space –  She notices that there are many people who visit from different parts of Victoria, Vancouver Island, other parts of Canada and from around the world – a lot for the very first time.  People are also inspired to bring their own creative ideas to Spring Ridge Commons.  Recently, Linda arrived in the Commons to find a beautiful driftwood bench had been built and left on the site.  This was later colourfully  painted by another person.   She does not know who donated it or who painted it later but sees it as typical of the type of creativity and generosity that emerges when the space is being cared for and maintained.

SRC Bench  Photo by Doreen Gee    (August 2015)

When Spring Ridge Commons is not maintained and is not protected, it can easily spiral in a negative direction.   The Commons, at one point, was at risk of being receded into municipality hands when the site hit a rough patch in its up-keeping and more recently, Linda is aware that, in  mid July 2014, at a time when she was ill and housebound and could not help maintain  or coordinate Spring Ridge, that it was a site that was allowed to grow wild and it quickly became a site that attracted a criminal element (selling crack and telling parent their kids are welcome);  dangerous people there……   People camping on the Stelly Street (north side of Spring Ridge Commons)  and even on a neighbour’s veranda (across the street from Spring Ridge Commons);  people shooting up in the Commons and syringes  everywhere, prostitution taking place  in a tent set up  and also under the gazebo structure in the centre of the Commons, people throwing large boulders around, people dumping thing in the Commons, garbage spewed everywhere.

 

spring-ridge-common wild  Photo – Date Unknown May/June 2014

 

It was a source of considerable anger and frustration for the neighbours and there were plenty of telephone calls to the Fernwood NRG (Leaseholder) via the Fernwood Community Centre, City of Victoria Police and the Victoria School Board (who own the property).  Some of the immediate neighbors considered moving out of the neighbourhood while some of the other neighbours felt that they would like to see the Commons fenced in like the Allotment Gardens in the Compost Education Centre.  Spring Ridge  Commons neighbors, very unhappy with the lack of constructive action,  took matters into their own hands and cut it back significantly. Much of the ­vegetation was removed or cut back to ground level, and the larger trees were pruned up to a height so that everyone—including the neighbours walking through and the police driving by—could see right through the site.  Just before this clean-up happened, a few individuals kicked out the people responsible for the unseemly activity that was happening in the  Commons and took down the gazebo structure at the same time to prevent this type of activity from happening again as well as to improve sight lines in to the Commons.  According to some ­immediate ­neighbours, this had greatly reduced the ­undesirable activity on the site, while others objected to the rough handling of the “forest” and this resulted in a Public Meeting held at the Fernwood Community Centre on September 2014.  Transcription of Meeting Note:  http://springridge.rd123.ca/?p=644

When maintaining and protecting the Commons, it is important to keep on top of things.  When Sean came across 10+ needles in late spring 2015 when he came to the Commons to water plants and trees, he placed this in a bucket and placed this away from where people gather.  These were later placed in a needle disposable container.  Linda also informed S.O.L.I.D. (Society of Living Illicit Drug Users) to be extra vigilant re: needles at Spring Ridge Commons and S.O.L.I.D. emailed back saying that they would send their outreach workers to make an extra trip or two to that area throughout the week to ensure that it stayed clean.  Sean was also on the lookout for any suspicious person in the Commons who could be a drug addict and letting that person know that he was on to it and that it was not OK to shoot up in the Commons.  Sheet mulching with cardboard,  placing down wood chips on pathways and skillful pruning  especially in the Spring when there is vigorous growth is essential in controlling  tall grass, invasive plants, etc. and this action also prevents people from hiding things in the Commons and doing other undesirable activities while creating a more inviting and safe environment.  There was lots of spear grass growing this spring, which would have  been particularly harmful to dogs who visit the Commons and it was very fortunate that 28 UVic Geography student came to the Commons one afternoon and as part of their tasks pulled by hand ten large garden bags full of spear grass (which was later carted away by the City of Victoria Parks).  The Commons is currently watered by hand; In the past, there was a drip irrigation in place; however, it is no longer in use due to leakages in the drip irrigation system/lines.  Fennel was growing fiercely in the Commons due to a neighbour across from the Commons love of fennel (for the birds) and letting it grow wild.  It is important to chop it down before it flowers and seeds so as to reduce it spread since it has deep tap roots, grows tall and exudes allelopathic substances that inhibit growth of other plants.  There are other invasive plants on site (garlic mustard, blessed milk thistle, etc. ) which need to be dealt with in a timely fashion.

Bee in the Garden:

Bee in the Garden Photo  Photo by Tony Sprackett   (Fall 2012)

An inspiration of Sean Newton, “Bee in the Garden” became a fun weekly tradition that took place every Sunday from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. This was on-going from Sept 2012 to Dec 2013.   Sean came bearing hot water, tea cups and a few extra pair of work gloves (for those wanting a hands-on-gardening experience) and would forage a few moments in the Commons and return with a bounty of freshly picked herbs (i.e. mint, rosemary, lavender) which he would brew up in a beautiful clay pot.  Will Fortune would entertain us all with his wonderful keyboard playing and his wife Zanzara sometimes worked on the collaborative mural.  Passersby meandered through the Commons – some joined us for tea and conversation while others politely declined.

Bee in the Garden was started up again in November 2014 and was co-hosted by Sean Newton and Linda Chan.  Currently it is hosted by Sean with the support of Linda.  It remains an opportunity for people to help out in the Garden as well as to join in for tea and conversation.  For write-ups and some pics, please visit:  http://springridge.rd123.ca/?p=894

Recounting of Bee in the Garden during Sept 2012 to Dec 2013:  http://springridge.rd123.ca/?page_id=731

 

Financial /  Cost Structure:

Spring Ridge Commons is in a very unique situation.  It is not a city park or a community allotment garden or a garden with an entrance fee or member supported fee.  It is a commons garden.

If it were a city park like Stevenson Park, it would be maintained by the City of Victoria Parks and the costs to maintain this garden would be paid for by the City of Victoria and it would be open to the public for free.  If it were a community allotment garden like Chambers St. Allotment Gardens   there would be individual plots which would cared for by  individuals paying a yearly fee for its use, what is produced in these plots would go to these individuals and the public would be allowed to visit these gardens for free during the days + times that the Compost Education Centre is open to the public.    If it was a garden like the Horticultural Centre of the Pacific (HCP), there would be an entrance fee to visit this garden, there would  also individuals and organizations who donate to support and create the different gardens within the HCP,  workshops with fees, horticultural college,  a gift shop, cafe, plant sales, volunteers  and staff who are hired.  If it was a member supported garden like Finnerty Garden at UVic, the enhancements to the garden would be supported by the $10 membership per person/couple to the Friends of Finnerty Garden.   It is a commons garden which means that the public is free to visit this garden at no cost, free to harvest berries, herbs, fruit and veggies grown in this garden and to enjoy the garden at no cost.  In the past, Spring Ridge Commons was the recipient of a number of grants which were really instrumental in  transforming  this under-utilized, marginal space (a barren gravel lot)  into a productive space both in terms of yields such as food and medicines and in terms of social yields such as experiences of beauty, nature and solitude, recreation and learning.  One notable grant was received in Summer 2001- an NDP $8,000 Provincial Environmental Youth Team Program Grant. * This phase of the Project was called “Have to Have a Habitat Community  Greenspace Creation Project” and this was a partnership between the Fernwood Community Association and the Greater Victoria Compost Education Centre.   When Lifecycles Project Society held the lease for Spring Ridge Commons in May 2007 to  Fall 2010, they were  very successful in securing a number of grants which directly benefited  Spring Ridge Commons and even one grant for the stewarding of the Commons. For a period of a few months Matthew Kemshaw was paid for an hour or two each week to act as site steward.    In 2008,  Lifecycles Project Society  initiated a mapping and signage project to provide visitors to the commons with a map and information about the plants found there: when to harvest them, properties of the plants and how to enjoy them. There was also a large information board and map to help people navigate their way around this edible and educational garden.  There were also small signs  by some of the plant offering information on their uses, origin and harvesting practices.  When the lease transferred to the Fernwood NRG, Lifecycles Project Society had continued from time to time to designate grant monies to Spring Ridge Commons.  Most notably,  in November 2012, four diverse ethically harvested wood benches were created by Chantecler Woodcraft and placed in the Commons secured by grant funding from Lifecycles Project Society.   Spring Ridge Commons was also the recipients of funds from “An Evening with Richard Walker – Food Forester” hosted by Permaculture BC   in May 2011 and in June 2012.  Spring Ridge Commons also hosted a workshop “Introduction to Home-Scale Permaculture with Elaine Codling”  in March 2012 with the proceeds going toward the purchase of tools.    Spring Ridge Commons has also received monies from Oneness Wednesdays at the Church of Truth, Community of Conscious Living (James Bay)  in 2011 and 2012 and from the Fernwood Community Association in July 2012 for the creation of the Friends of the Spring Ridge Commons and more recently in Spring 2015, Joanne Murray, Vice-President of the Fernwood Community Association provided funds for the creation of two signs by Sean Newton “Native Plant Garden” and “Garry Oak Meadow”.

Currently there is a Spring Ridge Commons Community Go Fund Me Campaign started on August 20, 2015.  Details:   http://springridge.rd123.ca/?page_id=1625  and http://www.gofundme.com/SpringRCommons

The reasons why Linda set up the Spring Ridge Commons Community Go Fund Me Campaign:

* Set it up on her birthday in hopes that her friends and others would contribute to it.

* There were tasks that were needing to be done in the Commons (converting an area growing Oregon grape into an area that will grow kale and other veggies; another area which needed to be tidied up in preparation for the painting of a community mural and this area could also be another place to grow food;  dead branches which needed to be cut off of a elderberry tree; garden waste that we are processing on-site that will also serve as a medium for growing food) and from the funds received would go towards paying two individuals, Sean who already does a lot in the Commons as a volunteer and Mikael, who did a lot of work at Spring Ridge Commons a few years ago both volunteer and paid.

* There are also projects in the Commons which need funding.  We would like to take  inventory of the trees and plants at Spring Ridge Commons and also identify trees and plant with labels and areas of the Commons with signs. We would like a new tool shed; our converted composter / storage chest is not water-proof, is heavy to lift up and is at time hard realign so it makes it difficult to lock it up again.

* Linda plans to retire as a steward of the garden by the end of September (and will continue on as the co-ordinator for the garden in the meanwhile).  Our Bee in the Garden each Sunday afternoon from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., which Sean hosts and Linda supports has a fair number of people stopping by for tea and conversation and we’re finding that not many people are free or willing to volunteer in the garden and we’re hoping that if they are not available to volunteer that they would willing to give a donation so that the work in the Commons continues to get done.

Vision for the Future

Five years in the future Linda would like to see Spring Ridge Commons continuing to thrive as a community open space  food forest / permaculture garden with a diversity of plants and trees – all  labelled and well-maintained.

Linda would like it to be a vibrant community space where people feel free to create art, play their musical instruments (keyboards , guitars, recorders, flutes), enjoy the garden with their family and with others or by themselves (reading, writing, doing tai chi / qi gong, etc)  learn from each other and also help out to ensure that the Commons remains a place where everyone can enjoy being in.

It is important that the Commons is well-maintained – that there are funds directed towards this – invest in qualified experienced passionate people for the stewarding the Commons  vs. available  monies being spent on water and on taking garbage / plant debris off-site.

Children are a vital part of this garden.  There are at least three pre-school close by and after-school programs / summer camps  so it would be great to find ways to involve kids in a variety of different ways – helping to maintain this garden (watering, placing chip on pathways, using a small sickle to cut down grass / old plant growth, etc.), painting rocks, doing art work with sidewalk chalk on Stelly Street by the Commons and in the Commons, playing in the Commons, and looking a nature-scaping (stumps that kids can play/climb on or use in creative ways).    A nature day care / pre-school program for kids 3 to 5 years old could also be explored – allowing kids to explore and experience Spring Ridge Commons as an outdoor classroom.

Linda would like the organizational structure to be reconfigured so that there is a renewed Friends of Spring Ridge Commons Non-Profit Society  who will oversee this community urban food forest/permaculture garden (hire/supervise an experienced /knowledgeable Food Forest Manager and Caretaker and handle other things such as fundraising, grants, etc.   with the support of partnering organizations (i.e. LifeCyclesCity of Victoria ParksHabitat Acquisition Trust (HAT), Compost Education CentreFernwood Community Association(FCA), Fernwood NRGUniversity of Victoria Restoration of Natural Systems Society of Living Illicit Drug Users (SOLID)  plus any other organizations which share a similar vision for the garden.  Currently and in the past, the organizational structure is reflected:  http://springridge.rd123.ca/?page_id=88

Answer to Question posed to Linda by Amy Zidulka – “What Motivate You to be Involved with Spring Ridge Commons?”

Linda joined Transition Victoria because she was concerned about the effects of Climate Change and Global Warming and wanted to be part of a group of people who were working together for a resilient, positive (constructive) and sustainable future.  Spring Ridge Commons was and is the project she took on to manifest this vision:  More specifically,

–  Stewarding  + protecting  a viable community urban permaculture garden/food forest and showing what is possible in the way of local food sustainability, community building and art + music in a open community space.

–  Bee Garden, Garry Oak Meadow, Native Plant Garden, and  Food Garden are all important elements in this garden and could show what is possible in someone’s front or back yard.

–  On-site processing of garden waste  combined with growing of food is happening in a few areas of the garden.

–  Sheet mulching with cardboard with leaf mulch and /or  wood chips to keep plant growth in check and to create pathways in the garden.

– Co-creating a garden where people can enjoy being in nature and at the same time provide a cultivated wild habitat for bees, birds and other insects to thrive.    When people are in nature, they become more connected to the world around them – they are more willing to help and support each other.

– Creating an community green space where children can experience free and unstructured play in a natural environment.   A general consensus exists in the scientific community that we will face tremendous environmental challenges in the years ahead. To overcome those challenges, we will need people who not only understand the earth, but also care about it. Research shows that nature play is crucial for developing just this sort of person. By spending time in direct contact with the environment, children have the positive experiences that may precondition them to caring about the natural world later in life.

 

 

Linda Chan’s Response to Lee Herrin’s Perspective of Spring Ridge Commons

 

 

Topic for students to  explore relating to Spring Ridge Commons:

Tragedy of the Commons:

Explore Tragedy of the Commons in light of  Collective (Shared) Responsibility…….

  •  Where did the term “Tragedy of the Commons” come from and what does it mean?

This is the title of a 1968 Science Magazine article by Dr. Garrett Hardin.  What stuck was the idea that, because each of us is motivated to pursue our immediate self-interest, anything held “in common” gets trashed — even though the effect is to mess the whole thing up for everyone.

Background information for further exploration:

Dr. Elinor Ostrom received a Nobel Prize in economics for showing the conditions under which commons do work:   when participants make and enforce fair rules for their use.  Certainly, we know that commons fails – as global climate chaos proves – when power imbalances are so extreme that it’s not possible to hold each other accountable.  Part of the problem is that when a small minority is in control, the rest of us can feel “off the hook” and fail at the basic human task of protecting what we love.

The point of commons care is to prevent harm before it occurs.  And an eco-mind can help, shifting our way of seeing from the dominant way of thinking about solutions — doing less harm to something outside of us to that of alignment within our ecological home.  We come to see natural treasures no longer as merely divisible property but as gifts protected by boundaries we create and honor, knowing that all life depends on their integrity.

In this shift, we come to value what we share as much as what we own, what keeps us alive as much as we exchange.

We do not have many examples of publicly accessible space that we are held responsible for, other than through the abstracted process of paying taxes

We come to value what we share as much as what we own, what keeps us alive as much as what we exchange —  Frances Moore Lappe in Eco Mind – Changing the Way We Think, to Create the World We Want.

 

Additional Resources on this topic area:

http://www.onthecommons.org/magazine/care-of-of-the-commons-care-of-the-soul

http://www.onthecommons.org/shift-me-we

 

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