A new urban-renewal-through-gardening project is being launched this spring and summer to turn some under-used spaces in downtown Red Deer into leafy community gathering spots.
Studies have shown that planting edibles and flowers in abandoned alleyways and lots reduces the amount of trash and litter that is dropped in these spaces, said Ryn Spicer, of the Local Food Movement’s Growing Community Initiative.
“These places become used and full of life. They are opportunities for connection, people coming together and children playing.”
A group of volunteers with experience in urban gardening from working on the Common Ground garden project at Capstone have branched off to start another project.
The Local Food Movement is an offshoot of 2022’s Year of the Garden Group, said Spicer. And she and other “caring citizens,” business and organization representatives are involved.
This spring and summer the group is planning to install temporary portable planters in two pilot locations. Spicer said the hope is that the project gradually expands to dozens of portable gardens that will spread colour and greenery throughout the city’s core.
She added that permission was already obtained from the City of Red Deer to install one of the portable gardens along the wall on the library’s south side, near City Hall Park.
This is usually a super hot location, so the construction of the lofty new Justice Centre should help create some shade for the flowers and garden produce that will be planted there, said Spicer.
Permission was also granted from a private landowner to install another larger portable garden on an empty lot on the east side of Little Gaetz and 53rd Street. A low-income apartment building once stood at this location but burned down in 2020.
Spicer envisions having some signage, as well as public seating beside the garden so the lot could be more fully utilized to become a “beautiful, cohesive urban space.”
Signs would tell passersby that these are public gardens and they are welcome to pick and eat from them. Spicer said while the possibility of vandalism always exists, the concept of community ownership of these gardens will hopefully prevail.
The portable gardens would initially be planted and tended by the group’s volunteers until, eventually, community partners step up to “adopt” them.
Volunteers with the Growing Community Initiative are now collecting community input as to what kind of portable garden boxes people would like to see. The next meeting is on March 15.
The gardens’ size, and whether the planters are built from metal troughs, recycled wood or other materials is yet to be determined, said Spicer. Her group is seeking funds for the project from government grants as well as corporate contributions.
For more information about the meeting, volunteering or contributing to the project, please email email@example.com.