More gardens proposed for Buchanan House
Buchanan Hall on Niagara St. Wednesday May 20, 2015 in St. Catharines, Ont. The building used to house the Children's Discovery Centre and YMCA of Niagara. Bob Tymczyszyn/St. Catharines Standard/Postmedia Network
Buoyed by a successful pilot project this growing season, Links for Greener Learning wants to continue operating teaching gardens at city-owned Buchanan House.
The not-for-profit organization is asking St. Catharines to enter into a five-year lease for the lands behind the historic building at 360 Niagara St. so it can carry on programming it started this summer and expand on it.
“We had a very, very good response. We had over 100 kids coming to our summer workshop,” said Links for Greener Learning Executive Director Yaneth Londono Thursday.
“We didn’t have the opportunity to do a lot of marketing and promotion. We were very impressed about the response that we had.”
The Buchanan House building houses city staff but the garden beds were unused before Links for Greener Learning made a pitch to city council in February. The organization asked for permission to use the beds to teach children and community members how to grow food.
Councillors voted unanimously to allow them to use the beds for a one-year trial.
Londono said the organization ran two workshops a day for about six weeks for youth from four years old to 14. They had different themes every week including green technology, water conservation, composting and recycling.
Londono said the organization made flyers to promote the teaching gardens but didn’t expect the “amazing” response because it was the first time they were doing it.
They charged $2 for the workshops and she said they found the children did pay attention to what they were learning.
“They learned a little bit of everything,” she said. “Some of the kids had a preference for green technology, building something... some learned about how carbon played a role in soil, pollinator gardens, compost, different things.”
All the food grown at the site was donated to Community Care St. Catharines-Thorold or used in workshops teaching kids about the vegetables and how to use them.
Londono said the goal now is to build more raised garden beds for next year, plant more wildflowers and expand on the pollinator gardens. As well, they want to restore the pond area and use it to teach children about the ecosystem.
The group also wants to bring in a mobile kitchen to teach kids about cooking and construct a path from the garden beds to the parking lot and washrooms at Pearson Park.
Longer-term initiatives include the construction of a large insulated classroom and a greenhouse.
Links for Greener Learning wants to apply for an Ontario Trillium Foundation capital grant to fund proposed improvements but has to have the application in by Oct. 25. A five-year lease agreement with the city is required to be eligible for the grant.
City council will be discussing the proposal on Monday and staff recommendation to enter into a lease.
A report to council says Links for Greener Learning made improvements to the site this year, including removing, constructing and planting raised vegetable and pollinator beds because the old beds on the site could not be re-used as initially believed. The organization also installed a compost demonstration area, rain barrels and a small storage area.
Staff supported some of the proposed improvements but some, such as use of the pond or construction of a greenhouse, required further review or work.
The report said the project received $5,725 through the city’s community garden funding program for lumber, soil, seeds and more. The city also gave approximately $4,000 in staff time and materials required to clean-up and prepare the site.
Links for Greener Learning would be responsible for raising funds required to make further site improvements.