Spring Ridge Commons Public Meeting Notes

The purpose of this meeting was to allow as broad of stakeholders as possible to come together to share their points of view.  Some of the discussion questions that people were asked to reflect on to assist in this process were:

  • What has been your experience of this site?
  • What principles are most important to you in the design and use of the site?
  • What are you personally willing to commit to the future of this site?

What follows are people points of view.  *I’ve made an effort to capture the essence of what each person had said about their ideas and experiences of  Spring Ridge Commons and I can easily make any changes to or add to .  Emails regarding any changes or additions can be sent to  springridgecommons@gmail.com  or a comment can be posted on Spring Ridge Commons Facebook Page. 


Long Term Neighbourhood Resident:

I remember it when it was an empty lot – There was a cut-through (and the path remains).   Personally I support a vision which includes a plaza, not because I am against gardens but because it solves some of the obvious problems.  I applaud the recent clean-up and lolly topping of the trees so that you have clear view – solves problems – There needs to be more of it.  Water is a huge problem – cost thousands of $$$ so we need to have more xeriscaping, easy maintenance, cross way paths, four big triangles with feature plantings in the triangles.


Sue -just moved to the neighbourhood from the Sunshine Coast where she lived for 30 years:

I came by last summer to see whether I wanted to live in the area.  I walked through this site.  It was disgusting, horrible –  it was meant to be natural, it was unnatural; it was meant to be a plant garden, it was a mess – there was garbage everywhere and drug use – there was drug use in a public spot!  I am willing to spend my own money (like donate) and spend my time (gardening).  I’m willing to sit on some committees.


Tony Sprackett, President of the Fernwood Community Association:

I’ve had quite a bit of experience with this site for a number of years and have seen the volunteer force ebb and flow over a period of time.  I believe, that in order to ensure that ebbing and flowing and the subsequent deterioration that happens during the ebb does not continue to happen is for the City to maintain this….  We’ve done all the ground work for this beautiful space.


Ed Horel, the Gardener / Caretaker of Spring Ridge Commons:

I don’t really care if people come and help me but I would appreciate if people would come and help.  In dealing with weeds, I believe in pulling out weeds not in putting cardboard on it.  I like having it open.  I try to get all the weeds out — make it a regular sitting spot – an oasis for all of us — I want to see it safe, a place where people can hangout,  can sit and read a book, have a cup of tea, have a beer….  I try to get donations of plants and so on…It needs lights and a couple of garbage can…..  I see it as a free zone for all of us, not fenced.  It is something of value to each and every one of us.


 Margot Johnston, Co-Founder of the Haultain Commons (on Hautain Street):

I truly applaud Ed……   Haultain Commons is facing the ebb, year after year, as is other Commons in the city – There is less and less people showing up at work parties and I don’t know how we can do this  …..Spring Ridge Commons is the oldest permaculture garden in Victoria that I am aware of.  A lot of time, energy, effort and permaculture knowledge has gone into creating it as a permaculture garden so it is very important, that whatever happen, that the permaculture aspect be kept — that it remain a demonstration garden and place for people to use it for food.


Patti Parkhouse, Founder and Coordinator of Banfield Commons in Vic West:

Same thing is happening in our neighbourhood — trying to engage people –   very, very difficult to keep people engaged … Volunteers will ebb and flow.

Spring Ridge Commons was an inspiration to Banfield Commons so I encourage you to keep it, grow it, and definitely maintain the permaculture aspect.


Lotus Johnson, photographer at Spring Ridge Commons:

Over the past seven years I have documented Spring Ridge Commons with 350 pictures on-line (Lotus Johnson’s Photos on Flikr).   The reason why I do this is to show people to intense beauty that there is at Spring Ridge Commons.  What I  see in the Commons is an up-swelling of growth, an up-swelling of beauty…..I think that people need to open up their heart to the beauty that the Commons represents.

Jeremy Loveday,  Candidate for City of Victoria Council:

I see great value in Spring Ridge Commons.  I’ve never actually helped out but I’ve enjoyed sitting in there many many times, reading and writing…. I’m wondering whether the City of Victoria might provide a small grant for a Volunteer Coordinator who would help recruit people — Would this help in the ebb periods?…. I believe there is a hunger for people who want to be helping.

Ben, who lives directly across the street on Chambers:

My recent experience of the Commons has been really negative – Kids no longer were allowed to use it (I was told that it was not a good place for your kids to be); I have friends who were threatened.  It was not a pleasant thing to be across the street from.  I kind of agree with the comment of the first speakers just a plaza – a nice pleasant space.  The idea of permaculture is great but a lot of the plants were so overgrown;  the food bearing plants were dying and were choked out by weeds.

Alysha Punnett, Site Manager, Compost Education Centre:

I’ve experienced a lot of the same issues that Spring Ridge Commons faced even though the Compost Education Centre is fenced…. Spring Ridge Commons needs a consistent paid position – Maintainer / Volunteer Coordinator – not just someone sitting at a desk.

Martin Pratt, long-time Steward of Spring Ridge Commons  (Phone interview on Sunday, October 26th replaces Martin’s presentation at the Public Meeting):

I have volunteered at Spring Ridge Commons since 2000  (Fourteen years).  I am very fond of Spring Ridge Commons and would like to see the permaculture model continue….  I would also like future plans in design and planning to take into account the succession of trees.  There was a succession plan for trees that Geoff Johnson created and I feel that should be followed.  I will approach Geoff to ask him to refine the succession plan with me……  I am not in favor of lights in the Commons — it seems unnatural to me.  …. I would be available to talk and meet with people regarding what plants are in Spring Ridge Commons.  Ideally plants growing at Spring Ridge Commons need to be labelled.

Rainey Hopewell, the other Birth Mother of Haultain Commons:

I would like to share a couple of things:   1.  Harder times are coming and at times, more people will be hungry.   I feel that all Commons play an important role in helping us learn about and practice how to share food graciously, kindly and equitably.  2.  I’d be very sad to lose our oldest Commons because of a so called wide spread social problem.  My heart breaks a little more every time a neighbourhood loses an amazing neighbourhood project because of a sweeping social issue that we believe we can’t solve because we’re just a little neighbourhood.   So we have this huge problem of not enough shelter for some folks, not enough food for some folks.  We have this amazing project in Fernwood but maybe we can’t have a food garden because of this much wider social issues of people not having a place to stay???

Barb, who lives next to Spring Ridge Commons:

I have been living next to Spring Ridge Commons for nine years and I love it.  I would like to see this garden remain a permaculture garden and produce food.  I was triggered when I went in the Garden and there was talk about planting rhodos…..    I’m wondering Where is the voice that welcomes rhodos? –  What it did bring up was who makes the decision on all this?  Different groups of volunteers come in – they change it and rearrange it.  It has never felt that there was any communication or decision making that is apparent or  transparent. So sustainability and predictability in the administration are what is important and I do love the park.

Rainey Hopewell, one of the Birth Mothers of Haultain Commons:

At the time that the Fernwood NRG was renewing its lease, there was a Friends of Spring Ridge Commons forming.  Does anyone know what has happened to this?  Is there an association?

Brent Howard, President of Friends of Spring Ridge Commons who also coordinated monthly work parties at Spring Ridge Commons.

I have been involved with Spring Ridge Commons for three years.  Linda Chan had invited me onto the Board of Spring Ridge Commons.  One thing I noticed right away was the lack of volunteers, so I coordinated work parties at Spring Ridge Commons once a month, generally on the 3rd Sunday for a couple of hours.   To a degree it worked and it helped…. I thank Ed for his prolonged efforts and it has been beneficial; I’ve seen lots of work done there….  One of the things that I noticed this winter, was homelessness, not just at Spring Ridge Commons but all over Victoria so it is a broader issue….  We need that sustained effort of volunteering and I think that coordinating with organizations such as LifeCycles Project and working with them (and even having someone on the Board of Friends of Spring Ridge Commons) and also having someone from the Fernwood NRG on the Board of our independent Friends of Spring Ridge Commons, we could coordinate enough communications.  What wasn’t  known was there was a need for visibility – so this was not reflected in the maintenance of Spring Ridge Commons.  What we need to do is to have a plan of the garden, where we want to go with the garden, and with the knowledge of what the neighbours want (i.e. increased visibility) this will help coordinate our maintenance efforts.

Linda Jenkins, Long time neighbour of Spring Ridge Commons: 

I am a neighbour right across from the garden.  I have been there for 23 years.  I’ve seen everything because I deal with the police, Fire Department….   All I want for the park is for it to be safer for the children, for my grandchildren…  The police and the fire department, they all tell me that we need site lines, that we were discussing — You can see into the park, shine the lights, know what’s going on.  They can deal with the problem… Signs that say it’s a private park, which you now have, has helped……  A park that is loved will be loved.  So if we all help to keep the park…. If we don’t, look what happened to it.  So all I say is love the park and we’ll keep it.  It won’t go anywhere but we have to keep it safe.  We have to deal with things as they come up   We don’t wait weeks and weeks.  We have to get on with the situation….  I’ve seen ups and downs and I haven’t phoned the police in a month so I’m really happy.

Lenore Rankin, Resident of Fernwood and Development Coordinator, Fernwood NRG:

I am a resident of Fernwood (Vining St) for four years and an employee of the Fernwood NRG for ten years.  I am well aware of all the issues that come up around this site…..    One of the things that I think about a lot is sustainability and especially economic sustainability….. I’m wondering if people would be willing to consider a different model and maybe one that is about intensive urban food production but not necessarily a permaculture model because there are a lot of great things happening like Mason Street Farm for example.  There are a lot of great models out there.   I’m just wondering whether there is an appetite  in the room to even consider a move away from a permaculture one but still maintain a food production focus.

Eve Iron, Resident of Fernwood:

I’ve lived in the neighbourhood for about a year and I’m a gardener and fan of permaculture and a fan of the Commons….I’ve gone there from time to time and I’ve seen all sorts of characters there.  I haven’t had any terrible experiences myself.  I would like to see Spring Ridge Commons continue the food producing aspect… I think permaculture can look a lot of different ways that could include food.

Angela Moran, Co-Owner of Mason Street City Farms  and Urban Agriculture Coordinator, LifeCycles Project:

I have had experience on both sides of the fence for quite a long time.  I have had a lot of struggle with social issues that the City is experiencing and I have a young child, who for the most part, I haven’t brought to Spring Ridge Commons very much in the past few years for the reasons that were stated this evening and time because I am an intensive production farmer that is operating a permaculture site in the middle of the city.  Permaculture is not just swales, trees and hills.  There are a lot of different approaches to what permaculture looks like and I believe that Spring Ridge Commons is a vital aspect to Victoria…..I have just taken on the co-ordinator position at LifeCycles Project and we are definitely here to support.  There’s no question.  We want to see the Commons continue……I have helped out with the herb spiral some years ago with Geoff (who unfortunately is not here this evening).  I think there are some simple design elements that we can change – get some lights in there and get some of the stakeholders, someone from the City of Victoria, perhaps a city councillor, someone from LifeCycles and the Fernwood NRG and from the School Board sitting at a table and talking about the next steps.

Marcelle, Resident of Fernwood:

My partner and I have lived in and out of Fernwood for the past year or two.  We have just bought a house four or five blocks away.  We frequent the Commons.  We have a five year old and until about 9 months ago have gone through the Commons picking berries, etc.    The last 9 months have been rough and we just scurry through there not sticking around the urination or defecation.  Obviously the trash and needles are not the greatest for a youngster.    My partner and I have made it a point to discuss this with our son and he would like a sign in the Commons says “Please no sleeping.  This is not a park.”  He’s all for the homeless eating and sharing in the Commons.  He doesn’t like being scared out of the bushes and this has happened when we walked through and someone was rustled awake…..I’m not wed to permaculture although I  think the model of permaculture is brilliant.  I think that Lenore’s idea is worth thinking about as well….. As for  what I’m personally  willing to commit to -As a coach,  I would love to join a round table… I have very novice eyes but very good ideas to bounce ideas off of the  rich wealth of  Vic  West, Haultain Commons and people  who are involved in the Spring Ridge Commons here.  I have an almost outsider perspective of how you could funnel continual volunteer experience similar to how  business funnels clients.  How marketing and PR and things like that could bring less of an ebb and flow even though it is the nature of it — a permanent position of sorts that was mentioned by another speaker would help to stabilize that and bring in ongoing volunteers .  One last thing, my partner brought in a comment of  sub-contracting out the management of the area to someone who is really rich in experience in permaculture, in gardening and whatever else you call it.  With George Jay, bring in permaculture education.  we would love to see more permaculture in schools. so it is thought of these different ideas that we can incorporate in the Commons and more love and respect, treating it with more respect and love the there won’t be needles, there won’t be garbage.  Everyone would be enjoying the park.  Thank you.

Erika Verlinden, Volunteer Coordinator, Fairfield Gonzales Community Garden

I am here representing a few different voices, all my own.   The first voice I want to represent is that of a very new  food commons in Fairfield Gonzales neighbourhood and I’m the Volunteer Coordinator for the past few years.  I just want to say that Spring Ridge Commons has also been an inspiration and the park model for the Commons that is being worked at the Fairfield Community Garden which is city property.  we also had to make a deal on a  lease with the City of Victoria between the Fairfield Gonzales Community Association, $1 a year  for use of the property.  ….we need to be growing food, we need to have Common spaces.  We need to have places of learning that are public and aren’t hidden behind walls.  This is an opportunity for us to experiment with community , alter social laws that we can pass on to future generations…….  The second voice I want to represent is that of a teacher.  I am an elementary school teacher of grade fivers.  My voice as a teacher say that  we always want our kids to be safe and at the same time have opportunities.  Permaculture is a learning opportunity for kids.  This isn’t going to be an absolutely perfect work site.  Permaculture isn’t.  Permaculture is not going to look like a manicured farm or Butchart’s Garden.   It’s not meant to look like that.  We’re really close to downtown so as long as children’s immediate physical safety is intached, Spring Ridge Commons serves a valuable learning tool both in permaculture aspects and in the social ills that are plaguing  not just Spring Ridge Commons.  These are social ills that are affecting the whole of City and all of the other surrounding municipalities and the symptoms are cropping up just like the plants in Spring Ridge Commons.  This is a common blight — People need to sleep.  Kids are smart.  They understand for example someone has pooped there because there is a lack of public washroom.  They come up with some pretty good ideas.  ….. My third voice is that of a regular citizen.  These problems that we’ve been dealing with at a much higher rate for the past 6 to 9 months are symptomatic of widespread problems.  I don’t buy it that because it’s not a city property, they don’t have any financial responsibility for it. They do.  There are people who use the park, that the city has a responsibility to in providing social housing, in health care and so on.

Allison, resident of James Bay:

I don’t know what the commons is for and I’m not sure that others know what the Commons is for…..  Involve the vagrants – the regular people to who frequent the Commons in the decision-making process – Invite them to a meeting.  You will be only too surprised at how much experience some of the guys and women have.  They might be glad to join the community of this sort and be of some help.

Joanne Murray, Vice-President, Fernwood Community Association:

Lenore Rankin of the FNRG asked specifically about whether there could be consideration of “an income-generating food garden” and I am not in favour of this.  The Fernwood Community Association was the group that wrestled this plot from the School Board…We had it for 17 or 18 years during the time when the permaculture idea that Geoff Johnson and Bobbie Arbess germinated…… When it was time to transfer the leasehold to the LifeCycles Project we did so with the condition that it remain a permaculture site and  when LifeCycles Project approached us about FNRG wanting to take over the lease,  we said yes, if it remains a permaculture site…. During the 17 or 18 year which the FCA held the lease, it was a very small organization, with volunteers but no staff and  a budget of $46,000 /year.  The FNRG has a budget of $1.5 million a year with a staff of 40 people.   We did pretty good.  …..I feel that the FNRG should avail themselves to be the resource…. press the City to get the water paid for and find it in their budget to hire someone who really would take responsibility in this.

Jane Kennedy, Homeless Coordinator:

I also do not know what the Commons are for and what permaculture means….. I live in an apartment and have seen the space twice and think that it is an extraordinary piece of land.  I will personally commit 1/2 hour to up to an hour of gardening or weeding a week.

Lee Herrin, Executive Director of Fernwood NRG:

This particular challenge caught us very much by surprise in terms of the magnitude of it and the reality with some folks, that were there, not withstanding…..You said they are resourceful.  Let me tell you…They are incredibly resourceful folks.  They would be moved on and then half an hour later, they would be back with  incredible amounts of stuff, as if nothing happened.  So it did take a concerted effort and the neighbours grew weary and frustrated with our inability to effect change so the neighbours effected change, as we heard, with some pruning shears.  Lots of other work has gone on since….  This meeting is a commitment made to all of the neighbours in June for an opportunity to come and speak about Spring Ridge Commons.

Fernwood Resident:

I have lived by the Commons for six to seven years… two small children.  The overgrowth has been happening for a couple of years not just the last six to nine months.  I’m not a gardener – I’m a very poor gardener.  There is a lot of expertise in this room.  There are also stakeholders as well.  The school board obviously has a stake…The Fernwood NRG ….The City …Those here who are experts in permaculture …. It can’t be cheap for the City to send Peace Officers to this site all the time, so I would suggest that the City would have a vested interest in making that space safe and secure so a financial commitment to me would seem a logical conclusion instead of constantly sending Police officers to the site — Police officers probably have a lot more better things to do than keep coming around every night…. so I would recommend that the stakeholders meet with the City of Victoria to come up with solutions that are sustainable and also have financial support.

Jan, Resident of Fernwood:

I have lived on the north end of Chambers for the last two year.  Before that, I was looking at the Fernwood Urban Village and in meetings there, I was aware that there were a lot of people who are very interested in permaculture.  With people moving from a house to a smaller place, there was a concern that there won’t be enough gardening for all the people who want to do it.  So I am wondering whether that  is a resource that could be considered to solve the problem.

Joanne Petitt, Resident of Fernwood:

I have moved back to Fernwood after being away for quite a long time.  I came here because I think it is a wonderful idea to have it and I want to contribute in any way I can.  I’m not seeing, this evening anything that helps me engage with my wish to volunteer.  I’d like to see some way forward with that.

Lee Herrin:  Executive Director of the Fernwood NRG:

Fair enough.  The intention of this evening was to hear everyone’s concerns. There will be a time to take the next step and we’ll definitely reach out to you.

Solara Goldwynn ,  Co-owner, Hatchett & Seeds:

I have a business with my partner called  Hatchett & Seeds.  We have worked with the Fernwood NRG on their Kitchen Garden and on their Community Orchard out back.  We are doing project all over -doing permaculture garden projects.  I would say that there is a misnomer that permaculture needs no maintenance and that things grow and forests happen… This is not the case.  All of our projects require maintenance over time.   The big alder trees on site should be cut down.  They are a pioneer species.  They can be turned into mushroom logs, chips, we can grow mushrooms…..There are various things that we can do in the garden.  It won’t take much work or much money through the year to keep it looking and producing nutrient dense food.  I am fully willing to devote my time once I have my baby.

Hanna, Primary School Teacher:

I am a primary school teacher and have a whole lot of students who have a burning desire to learn how to grow food.  I bring them to Spring Ridge Commons all the time so if you are looking for volunteers, I’ve got lots.

Mighk Simpson, Fernwood Resident and Permaculture Design Teacher:

I live a few blocks from Spring Ridge Commons and I have just recently moved back to Victoria after working the last several years teaching permaculture design in Portland Oregon.  I’ve been involved in the design and maintenance of public commons similar to Spring Ridge.  Over the last couple of year, I have been specifically involved in pre-systems planning and urban agriculture planning … In cities in North America, we’re seeing food systems planning, urban agriculture planning in ways that I’ve never seen before. For example in Seattle, Portland, Vancouver and other cities in the Northwest, we  are seeing urban action plans, food action plans, and at the cutting edge of urban food production is the idea of public commons, edible commons, food commons, food forest and I want to point out that what we have with Spring Ridge Commons is not only something what many cities would literally drool over, are trying to figure out how to do, it is one of the boldest examples, ahead of its time, I know of anywhere in the entire region.  It is really a special space in those regards.  But that is not to say it is without its problems or issues. It is important to find common ground… Those of us who are really committed to the edible commons like places like Spring Ridge  have to listen to the very legitimate concerns.  As a designer, these issues can be resolved through good well-thought out design.  One of the foundational principles of permaculture design is the idea of succession that the ecology changes over time, there is no reason for Spring Ridge Commons has to stay exactly the way it is. … Spring Ridge Commons is growing into its maturity.  We need to rethink the space taking into consideration permaculture design principles in order to respond to this.  One of the things that I would like to see is that we take all the talent all the talent of designers & people who are really talented with plants, with food systems and we form a design committee to take in all the concerns we’ve been hearing and come up with a proposal that will be resolved in the design.  Secondly, I want to say that I really agree with Alysha.  The site need a part-time paid coordinator position for the ebb and flow.  I can really relate to that.  I have put my blood and sweat in places over the years as volunteers burn out and fizzle out – find other things to do….that’s what creates the ebb and flow.  The paid coordinator can help resolves many of the issues that we’re hearing this evening by ensuring that there is on-going maintenance.  The more the space is animated and the more eyes there is on the Commons, the safer the site becomes.

*  These notes were transcribed by Linda Chan, Primary Steward of Spring Ridge Common’s (2010 to 2012) and a director of Friends of Spring Ridge Commons (2012 to …)

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2 Responses to Spring Ridge Commons Public Meeting Notes

  1. Joanne Murray says:

    This is great Linda – thank you very much for this.
    2 notes from the transcription:
    1. Lenore Rankin of the FNRG asked specifically about whether there could be consideration of “an income-generating food garden” and I was moved to contribute to the discussion because the idea of an “income-generating food garden” was raised by the current lease holders. It was the first thing I spoke to, using just that terminology and I wasn’t in favour.
    2. the permaculture founders I mentioned were Geoff Johnson and Bobby Arbuss- but it sounded like Bob Jervis for sure!

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