Spring Ridge Commons functions as a commons, or land held in common although the land on which Spring Ridge Commons exists is owned by Victoria School District 61. The School District has leased the land for a dollar a year to three leaseholders since Spring Ridge Commons was created in 1999. The Fernwood Community Association (FCA) – 1999 to May 2007, The LifeCycles Project Society (LifeCycles) May 2007- Fall 2010, and currently the Fernwood Neighbourhood Resource Group (NRG) since Fall 2o1o.
Leaseholders are financially responsible for the site, meaning they pay the $1 (or $200?) / year lease as well as pay for the insurance, the water bill and any costs associated with maintaining the property in a clean, safe and tidy condition (Dumping Fees, Extermination of Wasps, etc.). Stewards, also called site coordinators, were responsible for all of the site’s functioning: They maintained the garden, organized work parties, coordinated needed resources, and built community connections. All of this was done on a volunteer basis and as such, stewards relied on community support through participation in work parties (e.g. for site maintenance) and donations of material resources (e.g. leaf mulch and wood chips from City of Victoria Parks Division). Stewards have little legal power. They also have little financial power.
The Spring Ridge Commons was created as a *social experiment in cooperation* and its organizational structure was intentionally left open. Having no formal structure the Spring Ridge Commons exists in the margins, with associated challenges and benefits. In terms of ecological design such as margins, or edges, are sought after in designing resilient systems because it is in the edges that the greatest diversity occurs. In the case of Spring Ridge, multiple stakeholders are involved in its maintenance, bring a variety of skills and resources with them. They also bring multiple perspectives that coexist, confront, and conflict, with no explicitly defined rules for engaging with each others. Such openess has allowed for experimentation with how to cooperatively manage space, including dealing with power and conflict.
There has not been any formalized structure or written agreement between leaseholders and stewards (or between stewards and the Victoria School Board who own this land) and this has resulted in varying degrees of contact between leaseholders and stewards ranging from no contact to ongoing conflict. There has been no stipulations on the relationship between leaseholders and stewards thus suggesting that the organizational structure of Spring Ridge as a commons is based primarily on relationships of trust, outside any legal agreements or remuneration. However, how stewards and leaseholders perceive each others’ roles are not always in alignment with one another. The open structure of the Spring Ridge Commons means that multiple perspectives come together, sometimes in conflict. There are no formalized means for dealing with the conflicts that inevitably arise and so it is up to the stewards and leaseholders to define their relationships to the commons and to each other.
* Gratitude to April Mallett for her research and interpretation of the Organizational Structure of Spring Ridge Commons as part of her research study on how young people are participating in the Commons as part of her Thesis towards an MA in Child and Youth Care at UVic. (2012)