Starting at around 1:30 on Sunday afternoons human life is regularly brought into the space of Spring Ridge Commons. Hot water, small ceramic cups, and an assortment of teas – ranging from Japanese Sencha, Blueberry Mountain and ginger green tea — are brought to the table under the roofless pseudo shelter, as well as gardening gloves and tools needed for the day’s work party tasks. Linda Chan and Sean Newton have become regulars at this time and day in the Commons, welcoming any others who wish to help out or to those passing by and stopping for a cup of tea. Having attended many of the “Mad Hatter Tea Parties” (as a frequent Sunday work party member, Colin, calls them), I witnessed and learned about the interactions between the Commons and community members (even dogs).
The site is a “heavily pedestrian traffic place” (Colin, personal communication, Jan 27, 2013), where folks take their time and explore the space, stop and rest, or quickly stride through barely recognizing its beauty. One Sunday afternoon work party Colin told me about a lady he had met in the Commons. He referred to the lady as someone who enjoyed “the bush”, because she was upset when they started cutting back the overgrowth. This lady was an example of someone who enjoyed the space, and who used Spring Ridge Commons as an educational tool to show her kids the various plants. This lady wasn’t the only one who enjoyed the overgrowth of the Commons, because at one point the overgrowth of Pacific Ninebark in the Native Plant Garden became a “cave” for homeless campers, drinkers and even for children to play in (Linda Chan, personal communication, Jan 27, 2013), becoming a place where people would literally stop and rest. During the same work party a middle-aged man walking through the Commons decided to stop for a cup of tea, who in conversation, said he used the Commons as a place to “medicate”. Afterwards Sean said that when the space was more enclosed with overgrowth they used to find a lot of needles, but since the Commons has opened up less have been found.
Linda, Sean and other helping hands have become caretakers to the community food forest. Work party activities include weeding invasives and over abundant species such as Milk Thistle and Couch Grass, building low natural wood fencing, and trimming back grasses and other plants such as fennel, seeking to maintain the Commons and make it a more open and inviting space. Spring Ridge Commons is also a place for art and music. The roofless shelter in the middle of the site has an open art panel for people. There is a painted wooden telephone pole and painted rocks have been placed around the site. During my ventures in Spring Ridge Commons I have heard soothing harmonica notes, friends in a guitar circle, and even got to experience Will wheeling his keyboard to the Commons and jamming out with Tim on the saxophone on an overcast Sunday afternoon.
Spring Ridge Commons is more than just a communal space for people to harvest food; it is a place that creates opportunity for art, music, socialization and education.
Source: Spring Ridge Commons Native Plant Restoration Report by UVic Environmental Studies, ES 341 Ecological Restoration students: Hannah Galloway, Nicole Goldring, Michael Li, Roleen Sevillena and Julia Warren – Spring 2013, Cultural Context, p. 8 – 10