The loud side of civic engagement: Sapperton speaks out on EFry

Sapperton residents posted signs to demonstrate opposition to the Elizabeth Fry Society rezoning application. Photo: Will Tomkinson
Sapperton residents posted signs to demonstrate opposition to the Elizabeth Fry Society rezoning application. Photo: Will Tomkinson

United We Roar

An outside observer could be forgiven for thinking that New Westminster is rife with problems and dissent. Each day we hear of another action group bringing attention to an unwanted project or program or another group insisting that the community is in dire need of another service, amenity, policy or facility. So many of our eyes are focussed on glossy presentation boards in public forums, riotous Twitter battles , new blog entries and comments, visceral letters to the editor and reports and editorials in our local paper. Punching well above our weight, local councillors, trustees, resident’s association members and concerned citizens appear in regional and even national media on a regular basis, broadcasting the message that New Westminster is indeed grappling with weighty, weighty matters.

But is this the case? Is our city riven by conflict and acrimony? Torn between policy alternatives? So perpetually impaled on the horns of a dilemma that no amount of consultation, committee meetings or survey results can hope to bridge our collective chasms? No, I suggest that this is not the case. I suggest that, in fact, our community is more cohesive and productive than is usually expected in a plural, urban city. Our public debates are just the evidence of our well developed civic polity.

What we see, daily, exasperatingly, is the result of thousands of New Westminster residents expressing their opinions on topics that they plainly care about and about which they have obviously done some research. While some Residents’ Associations are an outspoken organ of public opinion and others languish in irrelevancy, what is true across the Royal City is that citizens, whether united in groups or standing up as individuals, care about what happens in their town and are prepared to express their opinions and act on their beliefs. What we hear and see, however, resembles constant strife as the victories and blessings of our town are not so vocally celebrated.

The residents of the great and dynamic community of Queensborough are unlikely to fill a blog post with thanks for an expanded community centre, additional police resources and some of the best playgrounds and schools in the city. Understandably, you will hear more about Queensborough as a forgotten or neglected neighbourhood with bridge traffic, poor pedestrian mobility and threatened by flooding and rapacious land developers.

West End and Connaught residents could be boasting about an inspired rebuild of the Grimston Park playground, the muscular housing and renovation boom or the significant upgrade of the civic plumbing (yawn). No, locals in this neighbourhood instead mention the complete lack of civic facilities in this third of the city, traffic on 20th St and where exactly their kids are supposed to go to school when Tweeds goes to the K-5 model.

Over in Kelvin and Uptown, do residents praise local improvements to Moody Park and the replacement of the Kiwanis pool? Do they thank City Hall for standing up against bad landlords and for the maintenance of rental housing inventory? No, but this is no surprise. Citizens here are more likely to bring up the speed of traffic next to the park, unruly behavior during the day in the commercial area near 6th 6th and in the evenings, in Moody Park. Businesses here bring up the unending road and sewer work and the absence of attention paid to the uptown merchants.

Ahh, Queens Park; a neighborhood apart. Or is it? Do they not also have their triumphs and trials? Other neighbourhoods may point out (quickly, to a fault) that this is a neighbourhood of posh homes, boasting excellent city landscaping, the best elementary school in the region, a collection of parks – one of which is so splendid, so truly regal that its very name, QUEEN’S Park evokes the image of the great and dour Empress Victoria lording over the rest of the city, scepter in hand. But let’s all be honest, in addition to having to put up with the endless insufferable comments about how cosseted QP is (it’s not) , residents of this small section of the city have to be on constant guard against the unending and creative ways city and other levels of government remove money from their upper-middle-class wallets.

Glenbrook, a neighbourhood so awesome it needed the Real Estate community to develop a name for it, shares with Massey-Victory Heights the benefit of being filled with family-friendly tree-lined streets, larger lots and good schools (some of them quite new), but what of the increasing traffic burden of McBride, 8th and 10th? Will condos and townhouses encroach? Canada Games Pool: really – is that the best we can do for a pool?

Downtown, Fraserview and Quayside, you can comment below. The article is already too long.

The Little Neighbourhood that Could, or Could it?

I think you get the picture: from an informed and engaged population, you get a chorus, a cacophony of grasping, needing, pleading outrage. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

You may have noticed that in this list of neighbourhoods, I have not yet mentioned Sapperton. Sure the same pattern exists here as in other zones but recently, Sapperton’s reality shows us a new aspect of the relationship between neighbourhoods and the City, and illustrates the limits of a cohesive, informed and engaged group of citizens.

Along with the rest of our city, Sapperton is enjoying a rebirth of sorts. Improvement to the East Columbia St. commercial district is noticeable and retail turnover seems to have slowed. Townhouses and towers have added new vitality to commerce and the streetscape. The Brewery District has sprung to life with some great potential and the best large-format grocery store in the city (IMHO). The local small elementary school has been rescued, (for good this time) and is nestled against a well-tended park with an updated playground. Walk the leafy streets and you will see neighbours chatting on the sidewalks in front of neat, even, manicured single family homes on small lots, practically high-fiving one another at how tidy and livable their neighbourhoods have become. And yet when these same people unanimously presented an informed and reasoned defence of their neighbourhood, they failed to receive the consideration, let alone the support of their City and City Council.

Now sure, I am often told that I often view city affairs with ‘rose coloured glasses’ and I have often disagreed with those who seem to manufacture outrage where none is warranted, but in this instance, I see a clear instance where the needs, wishes and welfare of New Westminster have been set aside; where a united stance has not been enough and the spirit of compromise and engagement has been met with a deaf ear. I this instance, I am speaking about the recent approval by council to amend the Official Community Plan (OCP) for the sole purpose of (possibly) rezoning one residential lot to allow the Elizabeth Fry Society (EFry) to construct a facility as an institution, allowing them to expand their services to at-risk women and families in the Lower Mainland.

In other neighbourhoods, recent programs and proposals in New West have also stirred the ever-vigilant population to action. When the West End’s only park was slated to be replaced with an elementary school, the community responded and the park was saved. When TransLink threatened to build the United Boulevard Extension, removing a whole block of homes and adding to the traffic misery of New Westminsterites, city and Council, almost with one voice, said hell no! Now it’s a similar story with the Pattullo Bridge: the city is against a six-lane option, and Council seems to be in the same corner. But if a united voice is an important factor to stop an unpopular or ill-advised program in these cases, why is it ignored in the case of EFry?

Certainly one argument has been that the “social good” EFry delivers in the lives of women in the region shows both a societal and humanitarian benefit greater than the objections brought against the expansion. But surely this argument was also used in the above three examples also: Grimston school, UBE and the six-lane crossing. In these cases a united, engaged constituency trumped the argument of “social good” when applied to the region. more accurately, the community put one set of “social goods” against another and won (in two cases, one is still pending).

A second argument posed by the residents is that their community, and New Westminster as a city, already has a significant number of social housing assets in the city, many specifically used as women’s shelters, women and children assisted living and so on. With so many of these facilities within this small city, this has become a distinctive feature. For all of our revitalization, renovation, and development, it has been said to me that the nature of New Westminster’s relationship with outreach and services makes it the halfway-house of the Lower Mainland: the redemptive, rehabilitative space between Surrey and Burnaby (metaphorically). Still, we are a generous city, willing to shoulder some of the burden shuffled off by our neighbours.

Sapperton residents particularly, during delegations to council prior to the OCP vote, cited the fact that their community is ringed by these services and facilities, many of which are not mapped, documented or referred to for the protection of their clients. This fact was brought up not to say that no new facilities should be built, nor that some should be closed, but rather that the saturation of social services counters the argument of NIMBYim. Sapperton, the residents contended, welcomed its supported housing neighbours, but suspending parking, zoning and the OCP for one property on a residential street is a clear and unacceptable threat to their streetscape, especially when other options exist for EFry.

In a nutshell, EFry intends to purchase this lot and house and develop a multistorey administration and services building to support the work this national women’s charity society is known for. Consequently, areas in the EFry “Blue Building” would be freed for more long-term supported living space. The new building will also house “long-term housing” for women with children (in 375 sq foot suites I am told). For EFry, the rezoning of this low-cost residential lot and repurposing of their parking lot is the best case and cheapest option in a city willing to change zoning and parking regulations to support the EFry program.

Representing Whom?

For the South Sapperton neighbourhood, there are no second chances, no Plan B, no alternative method of resolving their concerns. For EFry though, they seem to have options. On East Columbia, immediately adjacent to the EFry blue building is a poorly utilized commercial lot. Next to that lot is a vacant one. Also, if it is true that the new construction will be for the purposes of administration, the office space being built in the Brewery District would be both close and require less capital outlay. EFry could also, and correct me if I am wrong, simply buy the lot in question and renovate/rebuild within the existing zoning, running residential services or day-care facilities as is done in dozens of houses throughout New Westminster.

Why EFry wishes to pursue their course in the face of workable options and near-unanimous local opposition is a mystery for me. It is possible that they are so convinced of their vision and services that their directorship believes they override the inconvenience of seeking compromise and neighbourliness. From my vantage point, the EFry leadership may view the concerns of a “privileged” property owning middle class invalid in the face of their work, a vocation to which they have devoted their lives and perhaps their credulity. In the same way, the EFry support on council insist that “they know best” and demonstrate a level of paternalism in that, “The people who don’t realize the advantage of having those services available in their community aren’t doing enough research,” as expressed by Councillor Puchmayr, one of three council members in favour of the proposal (vote was 3-1 with one councillor recused and another in the Mayor’s Chair for the evening).

Time after time, our council has stood up for the rights of residents to defend the livability of our neighbourhoods. To close their ears to the overwhelming opposition of Sapperton residents to this project will erode confidence in the integrity of this council as advocates for the citizens of New Westminster. It is the mandate of council to see the bigger picture beyond neighbourhood concerns, but councillors also have a responsibility to hear and respond to the concerns residents have brought forward.

  • What will council do to limit the further impact of this and similar service organizations on the residents in the city, who through no fault of their own, have decided to raise their middle class families in this city?
  • What will be done to ensure that the citizens of Sapperton receive no further negative impact to the parking problem in their neighbourhood from the construction of a new tower and the removal of an existing parking lot?
  • What will council do to explain why the compassionate, reasoned, civil opinions of the locals in Sapperton should be put aside, essentially with no response, in favour of the goals of the EFry Society?
  • Why are the many possible alternatives for EFry, none of which raise the ire or fears of the community, not being considered or advocated by councillors, city staff or the EFry leadership?
  • Why, when popular, near unanimous defence of livability can halt building on parkland, regional transit initiatives or (hopefully) the building of a six-lane Pattullo bridge, can it not even be considered as reason for pause on this subject?
  • And finally, what is it that is motivating council, and possibly staff, to ignore the citizens, ignore the OCP, ignore parking and zoning laws and their own re-election possibilities, to back this proposal when clear alternative exist, even in a city overpopulated by similar facilities. What makes EFry so special?

Perhaps we will learn the answers to these questions in the coming months. Perhaps the program will stall at the rezoning level. Perhaps the people of New West will form a trust and buy the lot themselves and “put their money” where their neighbourhood is. We will see. I welcome civil and on-topic comments in the section below.

The New Westminster Quay Market is Dead. Long live River Market!

The grand opening of Donald's Market drew a big crowd. Photo: Briana Tomkinson
The grand opening of Donald's Market drew a big crowd. Photo: Briana Tomkinson

Today was the big reveal of Donald’s Market at River Market. Wow, can you believe that it was back in April that we finally learned who the New West River Market grocer tenant was? “Who would it be?” we all asked after months of guessing and deduction and mercelessly prodding River Market owener, Mark Shieh. But he wouldn’t say. Like Chuck Norris being interrogated by ex-soviet uranium smugglers, he vowed never to reveal the secret…. until finally, on March 31, he did.

And now, on the first day of snow at the beginning of the great winter of 2010/2011, more than half way through November, we can all see what Mark and his team from River Market have been building. I had my preconceptions: It would be small. It would be overpriced. Everything would be a little too crunchy, a little too righteous – a little too trendy for me and the gal I go with.

Donald's produce is great quality, good prices and reasonable selection. Photo: Briana Tomkinson
Donald's produce is great quality, good prices and reasonable selection. Photo: Briana Tomkinson

But I was happily surprised! Sure there is a bit more space for Seventh Generation detergents and Happy Planet and Enviro Kidz and Nature’s Path, but they are part of the mix along side specialty foods, imported brands and food products from small producers and cottage industries. This was what I found to be the most compelling about this store: it has manages to differentiate itself from other options in town while not alienating the majority of potential shoppers with hard-to-sell product choices.

Other pluses: the prices are pretty good. Produce was of great quality and reasonable selection, at prices better than most New Westminsterites are used to (especially those reliant on the IGA). The quality was so good that even the small amount of fruit that we did buy (49c bannanas BTW) tasted noticeably better than the average. Prices through the whole store were in line with Safeway or Save-On-Foods – and better in some cases, as you would expect for a Grand Opening Sale. The Store was crowded and a little hard to move in but the staff were keen and helpful and obviously proud of their opening. Lots of Island Farms and Olympic Dairy products, Saltspring and Latin Organics brand coffee, bulk foods etc.

Another local blogger, Sheila Keenan, had a similar impression:

I’m not going to lie. I had my doubts, especially given that the renovations dragged on for so long and at least one of the tenant choices seemed goofy. When I heard the Vancouver Circus School was a tenant I was skeptical. What the heck is a circus school doing in a market? After attending the grand opening today, I found out what it’s doing there: being awesome. After all, which grocery store would you rather go to: normal grocery store with just groceries or grocery store where there’s a guy doing a handstand all the way down the escalator and a girl juggling all the way up? I pick the grocery store with the circus school. (In addition to classes, they are also going to offer birthday party packages.) I actually got a little teary-eyed on the drive home, thinking to myself that this marvelous place is in New Westminster.

I will be cautious in my criticism, as I am sure Donald’s and the River Market have a lot of work left to do, but there were some points I wanted to raise:

1)It is a tightly packed space. Sure it was crowded today, but even with normal foot traffic, I cannot see how anyone in a wheelchair, scooter or large stroller could navigate without a series of blushful apologies. The arrangement of cashiers doesnt help, but it is plain that Donald’s is making the most use of the space available.

Opening-day shoppers at Donald's also got to tour the rest of the River Market space (though much of it is still under construction). Photo: Briana Tomkinson
Opening-day shoppers at Donald's also got to tour the rest of the River Market space (though much of it is still under construction). Photo: Briana Tomkinson

2) Parking. It is the rare supermarket that requires a 200-meter walk to a paid parking lot. Donald’s will cater to a core clientele of condo-dwellers from the Quay and Downtown New West buying 2-3 bags of groceries, and it will feature a bicycle delivery service. But those of us in Queens Park and the West End who appreciate the curated inventory Donald’s offers will begrudge paying a $2.50 parking bill for the honour of lugging fancy groceries to the other side of the Fraser River Discovery Centre. I suggest a golf cart with a trolley behind it, like a hayride but no, um, hay. “Aaaaawll Abooord! River Market to Riverside Park by way of parking kiosk A and B!”

3) Similarly, the way into the rest of the market from Donald’s seems restrictive; like a too-narrow hallway. Do they need that wall there? For a packed space, they should use all of the free air space they can get.

That is about it! I think Donald’s will help to disperse the malaise that has settled in the minds of locals since the Quay Market closed. The New Westminster Quay Market is Dead. Long live River Market!

For more photos of the new Donald’s Market at River Market, please see the album on our Facebook Page.

Council Chambers Online: Resident says “Meh, it’s not that hard”

New Westminster Mayor and Council

Monday night council meetings are a thing to behold! They are open to the public and while many citizens do attend, the process of a council meeting, which can be long and tedious, is often just a bit to late, or early (or dull) to attend in person.

Hey, the city gets that, and for several years the civic goings on of our wise and venerable Mayor & Council have been available on TV on the Shaw community channel. It makes for some … er … riveting viewing … but at least you can do so in the comfort of your own home and with a brewskie or two. In fact I know of a few folks so infused with civic pride that they have made these meetings a regular drinking game with friends! I don’t quite know how this works, a drink for every motion? Each time Councilor McEvoy mentions the poor and downtrodden? Each time a civic supplicant humbly offers up a set of ‘special’ T-shirts to M&C? Perhaps a swizzle each time the ever-smiling Councillor McIntosh flashes those pearly whites? I don’t know, but it sounds like a good time!

But what happens to those of us in our increasingly fragmented media landscape who do not have access to Shaw’s service? There was a time when the radio was the universal communicator and could reliably provide information about local proceedings, alien invasion etc., but today, many media compete to deliver the message. Many folks receive their cable service from a different provider or via satellite. Others don’t have cable or, like us, have no TV channels at all coming into our house. Increasingly, families are cutting their TV services and turning to the Internet for news, events and entertainment. Now no doubt, all of these groups are a minority, but it is a growing minority, an ever-widening slice of the pie.

What would council do to address these lost eyeballs? As related in a recent blog post by Record Reporter Theresa McManus our intrepid M&C directed staff to study the cost of streaming council meetings over the internet via video to the taxalicious cost of close to $25k per year and a one time $25k set up cost. A mind-boggling sum! Incredulity from the younger members of council filled the air as our august body of sober leaders absorbed the high cost implications of communicating data via a medium known for cheap or free broadcasting. (I can see it now, Cote and McEvoy rolling their eyes in unison as if they have just witnessed their grandfolks trying to change the TV channel with an iPod). Thankfully curiosity (or procrastination) prevailed, and our beloved M&C chose to look further into what the whippersnappers say is popular with those crazy kids today.

While there are special considerations governments must consider when choosing new technology, there are several popular free live video streaming services on the Internet, including Ustream,, and more. With a webcam or video camera and a tripod (we’ll even loan you ours), a laptop and an Internet connection, Council could test public response to streaming video at very little cost. If a more robust solution is needed, then they could consider spending a little more on a proprietary solution or invest some staff or contractor time to slice & dice the video into shorter, subject-specific segments that could be made available for watching & embedding via YouTube or another free video hosting service. Ustream and both also offer live chat integration with Facebook, so council could broadcast meetings and those watching could share real-time feedback via Facebook chat. How’s that for public participation?

Meanwhile, as if to say, “Look, it’s not rocket science people!”, local resident Matthew Laird ( Quayside board President and also on the board of NWEP & the Royal City Farmers Market, active on various committees, and a former provincial and civic candidate) has been industriously tweeting about how it can be done easily and has uploaded video from every council meeting since December. Says Matt:

I’m still getting my process down, determining what video format to post them in, getting my routine down to record and post them, etc.  I think I have a system in place now…I agree with Jonathan’s comment…it should easily be possible for less than $20,000.  Sounds like an excuse not to get the issue done.

Matthew Laird

Sure it is little grainy and may take 5-10 minutes to load but Laird’s work clearly demonstrates that with a minimum of effort and flexibility, streaming council meetings over the web can be done. What is more, they can be viewed at any time – not just on the broadcast date. For the referees in us who want to review the tapes before calling the penalty, these files can be stored and reviewed for reference should the need arise. As with Pitt Meadows and North Vancouver, the Royal City should also leap into the digital era and allow all residents to monitor council proceedings, and review them at will, via the Internet.

At the Farmers Market, we are not strangers but neighbours

Volunteering in New Westminster connects you to the community like nothing else. There’s no shortage of causes to choose from: New West Environmental PartnersCommunity GardensHyackFrasersidePurpose SocietyDowntown BIAFamily Place, local resident’s associations, neighborhood festival committees, advisory boards for the city, Arts Council … the list goes on. My organization of choice is the Royal City Farmers Market.

Will Tomkinson, taking a break while volunteering at the 2009 summer market. Photo: Graham Ballantyne
Will, taking a break while volunteering at the 2009 summer market. Photo: Graham Ballantyne

The Royal City Farmers Market began operations in the spring of 2008. Each Thursday afternoon, the 4th street parking lot near Tipperary Park became a village square, busy with the sounds of commerce and the happy buzz of community. The market not only provided access to healthy, local food and supported local producers and business, but it was also a place to build bonds across neighborhoods and connect the folk of New West with events and groups active throughout the city. I was hooked, and hungry to be involved.

I put my name forward as a volunteer. I began by showing up early and staying late at the market, assisting with setup and teardown of the market booths. Soon I was invited on to the Board of Directors and at the Society AGM, I was confirmed as Vice President. I have loved every minute of it and I am sure this feeling is echoed by the volunteers on community and charitable boards throughout New Westminster:

On Saturday, April 17th, it is RCFM’s last market of the winter season. This was the first year RCFM hosted a monthly Winter Market, and by any measure it was a success. Once a month for the last five months, RCFM has returned to the Holy Trinity Cathedral parish hall and stocked it full of local vendors, food producers and community organizations. Initially, there was some worry if the good folks of the Royal City would come out and support the market in the same way they had in the summer season. But each month without fail, the market would be busy with friends and neighbours sharing stories over crepes and hot coffee, enjoying music or children’s activities and taking advantage of the best products the Farmer’s Market scene has to offer. At the market, we are not strangers, but neighbours.

So this is it, city. This Saturday is the big finale and the gang at RCFM have a great day lined up for you. There are more vendors at the April 17th market than at any previous RCFM winter market. This market is the long awaited ‘flower market’ with two fresh flower vendors, ready to help you brighten up your home. For musical entertainment, RCFM is proud to bring back steel guitarist Ross Werlick (one of my favorite market performers). Children will be treated to an eco-friendly activity at “Exploring a Green World” presented by Family Services of Greater Vancouver. As usual, the market remains a great place for families with kids to come and play and interact with their city. Doors open at 10am and the 2009/2010 RCFM winter season is officially closed as of 2:00 pm, when the market day ends. Weekly summer markets resume June 10th at 4pm in Tipperary Park.

RCFM – Winter Market from Royal City Farmers Market on Vimeo.

DPAC seeks opinions on New West schools via flawed online survey

The New Westminster District Parents Advisory Council is on the warpath with a planned rally March 20 at City Hall and an online survey gathering opinions from New Westminsterites about our city’s school-building delays.

DPAC has consistently and aggressively  pushed council, school board and even the B.C. Ministry of Education for resolution on one of our city’s thorniest problems: the building of the new High School and the linked construction of new and replacement schools in New Westminster. While gathering the concerns and opinions of parents in the school district can be a powerful measure of support and a reliable way to indicate a direction for our city’s decision makers, the survey recently released by DPAC falls short of a credible scientific standard and risks being dismissed as a partisan cudgel. Leading questions and clear examples of author bias make the DPAC’s survey effort just short of push polling.

Instead of asking  to rate the standard “job performance” or their “overall” satisfaction of Parent Advisory Councils, School Board, City Council, Provincial Government, participants are asked to rate how these groups “listen to their concerns.”  What percentage of residents have issued their concerns directly? Concerns raised include a variety of opinions. How does this question account for that?

Even more concerning was an almost impossible question: How satisfied are you with:

The city, provincal(sic) and federal governments for not stepping up to the plate and holding themselves accountable for building on top of a cemetery as well

Phrased this way, the question abruptly turns a survey of opinions into what feels like a weapon in a vendetta against the various governing groups responsible for our schools. It oversimplifies a complex issue. When leading questions are introduced like this, what value can the results have?

I am torn writing this post because I don’t want to vilify DPAC. It is possible that their passion for the children of SD40 and frustration with the ongoing delay in school construction has just seeped into the survey. And I do think that DPAC should be pressuring the school board and provincial Ministry of Education to step up and own their responsibility to the students of this district. While a survey can be an effective tool; this one unfortunately, may be hard to take seriously.

Garden Nerd Series: Garden-grown food for a good cause.

Last year I started the spring growing season by attending an annual meet and greet event for Plant a Row, Grow a Row, an international organization that had local hubs in many communities.

Tough customer sampling some green beans at the source.
Tough customer sampling some green beans at the source.

As it says on the website, it “builds on the long-standing tradition of gardeners loving to share their harvest with others. It is a people-helping-people program to assist in feeding the hungry in their own communities”. In short, gardeners are asked to produce just a bit more than they otherwise would plant, and donate the surplus to the local food bank. The Plant a Row, Grow a Row group makes it easy by having a weekly drop off point in the community. As last year, St. Thomas More Collegiate. has volunteered to host the drop-offs.

This year, as last, the group, organized locally by well known city horticulture manager (and neighbour) Claude LeDoux, is holding the annual Gardener’s Party at the gym of St. Thomas More . It is a great chance to come and meet some fellow gardeners, listen to some fascinating speakers and learn about this great program.

At the event this year, scheduled for March 18th at 6pm, speakers include renowned horticulturalist Brian Minter; Daniel Mosquin and Ingrid Hoff from the UBC Botanical Garden, Conrad Lum from GardenWorks Mandeville and Mark McDonald from WestCoast Seeds. Expect refreshments and some free goodies. The evening was entertaining and informative last year but consider bringing a cushion (seating is on the bleachers in the gym). From the recent press release:

Growing food is this year’s hot horticultural trend, and it’s a great family activity, especially when you can help kids learn about the importance of helping others at the same time. You can grow vegetables and fruits in containers, in with your perennials, or in your own backyard plot. You can even grow Tumbler tomatoes or strawberries in a hanging basket!

So please join us March 18th at 6 pm at St Thomas More Collegiate (7450 12th Ave., Burnaby) to find out more. Admission is free, but we would appreciate the donation of non-perishable food for the Food Bank. See you there!

With the undeniable passion for gardening in New Westminster, the developing sense of food security and local sources of food, the sustained two-year push to gain another community garden in this city (culminating in the recently announced new plots at St. Mary’s in Sapperton), groups like Plant a Row, Grow a Row, really help form a network of community involvement and responsibility out of a passion for a good hobby. Congratulations to them for another great year, and happy gardening.