Information for the Youth-led project at Spring Ridge Commons:

Name of Project:   Place-Making and Signage at Spring Ridge Commons. 

What is Place-Making?  – Place Making is a quiet movement that reimagines public spaces as the heart of every community, in every city. It’s a transformative approach that inspires people to create and improve their public places. Placemaking strengthens the connection between people and the places they share.

11 Principles of Placemaking:

Spring Ridge Commons:

In the heart of Fernwood, at the corner of Chambers and Gladstone,  lies  Spring Ridge Commons,  a community urban food forest / permaculture demonstration garden.  This communal garden offers a wonderful space fully open to the public where people can pick berries and herbs, participate in collective stewardship, get-together with friends and neighbours, and just sit in a shady spot watching the bird and the bees.

For more information about Spring Ridge Commons:

[Pictures/videos of Spring Ridge Commons:  and]

People’s shared perspectives on Spring Ridge Commons:

Spring Ridge Commons Power Point Presentation:

Spring Ridge Commons Power Point Presentation

What permaculture is:   Permaculture is a design approach that frees you to use really any appropriate technique. You’re not limited.  A  Public Permaculture Garden or Commons  is  a gardened area for the use and benefit of the surrounding community and visitors, where the methods used and decisions made mimic the interrelationships found in nature. There is an emphasis on perennial plants that require minimal maintenance yet produce a high yield of food.

What a food forest is:  The concept of a food forest has its roots in permaculture, a philosophy that advocates for managing agricultural landscapes in harmony with nature. The practice emphasizes perennial, low-maintenance plants that leverage natural nutrient inputs, drainage patterns and climate to achieve a self-sustaining, food-producing ecosystem. A food forest is quite literally a forest that produces food for people (and, most certainly, forest critters) to eat. Nut and fruit-producing trees and shrubs are planted with herbs, vines and ground flora that produce fruits, vegetables, and edible greens and roots.

In permaculture, sheet mulching is an agricultural “No-dig gardening”  technique that attempts to mimic natural forests’ processes. When deployed properly and in combination with other permacultural principles, it can generate healthy, productive, and low maintenance ecosystems.

All maintenance work is done by volunteers and focuses on soil building. Dead plant material in the garden is considered a valuable resource not waste, therefore is left as mulch to help feed the soil and conserve moisture.”

History of the stewardship Spring Ridge Commons

Spring Ridge  was started in 1999 by Geoff Johnson who was in his twenties at the time and a small group of like minded friends.  Geoff  became the primary steward as he took on more responsibility and was instrumental in the garden’s development from 1999 until 2006.  He has continued  to consult with those who take on the project  and  has, over the past decade or so, worked and volunteered with a variety of local organizations or people  to develop or inspire several other Spring Ridge like permaculture-based forest gardens on a much smaller scale.

The stewardship of Spring Ridge Commons transferred to Matthew Kemshaw in 2007 when LifeCycles Project Society,  a predominantly youth driven non-profit that supports urban agriculture in Victoria  took over the lease.  Matthew, who was in his mid-twenties and was an employee of LifeCycles. became the primary steward of the site and for a  period of a few months, he was paid for four hours a week by LifeCycles to act as site steward. Afterward, he continued to steward the common on a volunteer basis.

In 2009 Matthew left Victoria and brought together a steering committee of volunteers to act as collective stewards of Spring Ridge. The committee was comprised of seven people, five of whom were in their twenties.

This continued until Oct 2010 when Transition Victoria Food Group, part of a global grassroots movement supporting citizen action toward reducing oil dependence and building local community resilience and ecological sustainability  plus a secure, abundant, resilient food system in the Victoria region adopted Spring  Ridge Commons as one of its projects and Linda Chan became the garden’s coordinator and primary steward (Oct 2010 to Dec 2012) and (Oct 2014 to Sept 2015).  In July 6, 2012, there was a Friends of the Spring Ridge Commons  formed –  and this curtailled Transition Victoria Food Group’s formal involvement in the garden.

Friends of Spring Ridge Commons was active from July 6, 2012 to Dec 2013 and during this time, Sean Newton came on board as the garden’s primary steward in 2013.  He is currently the  primary steward (October 2014 to Present) along with Shane Johnson (July 2015 to present) who is stewarding the Garry Oak Meadow/Native Plant Garden.  The non-profit society is currently inactive and has a bank balance of around $180.00.  We  are looking at spending most of the remaining funds  on on-site project work in December.   (creating a rain garden, etc.)

At current time, Spring Ridge Commons remains a volunteer-led /community run project.  “It was created and is maintained according to ideals of a better society, one based on cooperation and relationships of mutual support.  During much of Spring Ridge Commons 15 + years history,  it was self-directed by youth who engaged in the creative production of a physical and social space of experimentation.”

“Likewise, the Spring Ridge Commons is generative – it is about creating that which we feel is possible.  As a free space, Spring Ridge offers a venue for experimentation with different values, practices, and ways of living, that offer examples of new ways of being in and creating our world.”

” the grassroots nature of the gardens’ growth, saying that it is less about who holds the lease for the land and more about “people seeing what needs to be done, getting inspired, and doing it.”

Organizational structure (subject to review and modification):

A lot of our recent work done over the past year is captured within our weekly Bee in the Garden:

Evolution of Spring Ridge Commons:

Possible elements of the Project:

*  Central Area gathering/meeting area improvements – garbage can, recycling station for bottles, place to put cigarette butts, etc.  with accompanying signage;  temporary awning which could be put up and taken down as protection against the elements.

Central gathering/meeting area:

* Signage welcoming people to the site, explaining what Spring Ridge Commons is and including some guidelines and rules of conduct within this beautiful space.  The term commons is not well-understood by the general population.  “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. ”

* Signs to identify trees (50+) and plants (100 + ) on site and  possibly small maps in the different areas of Spring Ridge identifying where the plants /trees are situated.  Many plants in the garden are edible, have medicinal qualities, are pollinator (bee, humming bird, butterfly) friendly, are drought tolerant, and have other beneficial uses (i.e. willow can be used for propagating plants and for building structures – trellis, tents, fencing)

Different areas of the commons:

* Signage re: new labyrinth/spiral – Determining name of and directional signs, etc. to guide people through the labyrinth/spiral.

* What a labyrinth is?  “A labyrinth has only one path. It is unicursal. The way in is the way out. There are no blind alleys. The path leads you on a circuitous path to the center and out again.”  “At its most basic level the labyrinth is a metaphor for the journey to the center of your deepest self and back out into the world with a broadened understanding of who you are.”

* Value of labyrinths:  “See labyrinths from all over the globe being used by individuals and groups as a quiet oasis where people can pause, step out of the frenetic pace of life, and take time to rejuvenate. Labyrinths can be centerpieces which add unexpected beauty to any landscape or environment. ”

“Walking the labyrinth reduces stress, quiets the mind, grounds the body and opens the heart.”

* The labyrinth created at Spring Ridge Commons takes you through the whole garden around in a circuitous path in a spiral eventually landing in the central meeting/gathering area.

* Creation of a pumpkin patch with donated pumpkins within the labyrinth.

* Learning and sharing some of the stories within each area of the Commons as you walk with people through the labyrinth.  Some of the stories are found on this section of the word press site:″>  

* In designated areas, a sign inviting people to plant certain types of perennials or annuals (i.e.  along the perimeters of  Gladstone Street, a sign saying people are invited to plant to  flowers in the particular area + another sign saying please do not pick flowers in the area – please allow the bees and others to enjoy the blossom.)

* Other signs determined necessary by youth within and outside the garden  (asking City of Victoria to place a  directional sign – Spring Ridge Commons on Cook St. so that people driving or on foot will be able to find Spring Ridge Commons, etc.).

Benefits to Youth Participating in Spring Ridge Commons:

“Through participation in the Spring Ridge Commons young people are:

1) engaging in alternative forms of everyday food practices based on an ethic of reducing consumption, which include urban foraging and growing food that is openly accessible and free to the public;

2) engaging in learning opportunities aimed at reskilling for local and urban food production and sharing their knowledge and skills with one another through a peer-to-peer network; and

3) experimenting with ways of being in community and cooperative management of community space.”

Possible Adult Mentors/Advisors for the Project:

  • Linda Chan, Coordinator, Spring Ridge Commons; Former Steward of garden (Oct 2010 to Dec 2012) and (Oct 2014 to Sept 2015)
  • Adam Huggins,  former Co-Coordinator of the Purple Thistle Youth Urban Farming Project at a youth collective-run free space for arts & activism called the Purple Thistle Center in East Vancouver and and have worked on projects up and down the west coast from California to Canada.
  • Renee Lindstrom, Founder of Greater Victoria Labyrinths and  Vice Chair of the The World Children’s Summit on Peace and Nature
  • Sean Newton, Primary Steward of Spring Ridge Commons (2013) and (Oct 2014 to Present);  He  works as a freelance artist and has painted a number of murals and telephone poles in Fernwood.
  • Mikael Jahmal,  Steward of Spring Ridge Commons – volunteered and worked on several projects in the commons (herb spiral, crack in the armour statue, painted pole, community mural project, painting of all the benches in the commons).
  • Brent Howard, Professional Landscaper, Garden Root Landscaping.  He was the President of Friends of the Spring Ridge Commons (2013 to ….) and Vice-President (2012) and held monthly work parties at Spring Ridge Commons (April 2012 to Dec 2013).  He is currently leading a couple of work parties in December.
  • Thomas Munson, Environmental Technician with City of Victoria Parks – restoration of natural area + Garry Oak Meadows; Work with volunteers and schools in educational activities related to protection of Garry oak ecosystems.
  • Shane Johnson,  Native Plant Steward for Garry Oak Meadow and Native Plant Garden at Spring Ridge Commons since July 2015.  He has a passion for Garry Oak Meadows / Native Plant Gardens.  He brings with him  lots of experience, 15 years of knowledge,  and has worked on numerous restoration projects.
  • Amanda Evans, Coordinator, Greater Victoria Green Team :
  •  Nick Poeta and Josh Wagler,  Edible Living Landscapes – Creators of food forest labyrinths.
  • Lorne Daniels, Greater Victoria Place Making Network
  • Mark Lakeman and Mike Simpson,  The City Repair Project: 
  • Holly Hobson, Purposeful Plants
  • Geoff Johnson, Originator of Spring Ridge Commons.  He was the driving force behind  Spring Ridge Commons and was this food forest’s Primary Steward for 7 years taking a leadership role in coordinating volunteers and fighting the political battles.
  • Spring Ridge Commons Arts Collective:  a new group formed recently by  current and former stewards of  Spring Ridge Commons, Mikael Jahmal, Sean Newton and Linda Chan.   We seek to be an inclusive community celebrating the arts in all forms.

Project Budget

Plant ID: