In 2007, CGC began to turn vision into reality by building a community garden in an urban park located next to a high school within the City of Duncan and the District of North Cowichan. Funding and community support was acquired and 18 raised beds were erected and then used by community members. In 2009, the existing garden was expanded to include an additional 24 beds in a ‘mandala’ style garden as well as a tool shed and compost bin. In 2011, a native plant demonstration garden was created, more fruit trees were planted, a memorial bench was erected and more perennials were incorporated into the landscape.
In 2010, the outdoor public swimming pool that was located in this park was removed by the municipality. The large open space that remained after the removal of the pool was replaced with grass. As a result, there was a dramatic decrease in park usage amongst neighbourhood children and families.
In 2011, CGC began to work on transforming the building that housed the pool equipment, washrooms, change rooms and canteen, which had remained empty and unused after the pool’s removal, into an outdoor classroom featuring green technologies and natural building techniques. This included the installation of solar hot water, solar hydronics, a cob bench, and rainwater collection.
As part of the ongoing transformation at the park, CGC signed a 5 year licensing agreement with the City of Duncan and the Municipality of North Cowichan in early 2012 to transform a portion of the underutilized green space at Kin Park into the region’s first-ever youth-led urban farm.
In November 2012 CGC entered into a contribution agreement from Service Canada through the Skills Link Community Service Program to provide six Cowichan Region youth, facing barriers to employment, the opportunity to acquire valuable life and employability skills training through the creation of an urban demonstration farm at Kinsmen Park. The vision of this project was to create a sustainable social enterprise that would train youth, provide increased access to local food and educate the community on how to grow food sustainably in their own backyards.
The project was officially launched mid-November with the youth interns participating in six weeks of classroom training and workshops. The team drafted and presented site plans to The Municipality of North Cowichan and the City of Duncan which were subsequently approved. In February the interns began to transform just over one quarter acre of Kinsmen Park into growing areas, including the addition of a passive solar greenhouse next to the recently green-retrofitted pool building.
Since May of 2013, a variety of youth interns, volunteers and CGC staff have been transforming Kin Park into an edible oasis. Not only have new growing beds been built, but the greenhouse interior has become more “finished”, a number of fruit trees and berry bushes have been planted, and new irrigation lines have been installed. Additionally we have hosted several workshops, tours and events and worked alongside a variety of community partners to provide unique learning experiences.