In part three of Kingstonist’s examination of the downtown business-scape, we highlighted the fact that there are numerous neglected parcels of land along the strip of Princess Street that falls between Bath and Division. A majority of these properties were once home to car dealerships, car rental agencies and gas stations, while they are now undeveloped and paved lots. This makes the prospect of future development rather exciting, as this area could eventually become home to some exciting new businesses. In the meantime, the presence of so many abandoned shopping carts, for lease and for sale signs has become a blight on this part of our city, which resembles a derelict ghost town.
This section of Princess Street has been ignored and on the decline for well over a decade. I think that most Kingstonian’s would agree that something desperately needs to be done with these vacant properties, but unfortunately most of us are not massive land owners nor real estate developers. This got me thinking about some short term, community-driven uses for these parcels of land. What if we could temporarily develop these underutilized properties and make Kingston more sustainable? What if Kingston transformed these vacant properties into community gardens, and urban farms?
Communal plots and gardens are not new to Kingston, however they are not as prevalent here as they are in other cities. With sustainability on the minds of many folks in City Hall, I was not surprised to see the long overdue, recently released draft Community Gardens Policy. Therein, the City recognizes:
…community gardening as a valuable activity that contributes to sustainable urban living, community development, health and well-being, positive social interactions, environmental education, protection and use of open space, and enhanced food security through economical, nutritious food production. The City of Kingston encourages community gardening by collaborating with non-profit groups and/or neighbourhood associations in the development, operation and management of community gardens. This policy applies to municipally owned lands.
The draft policy is generally supportive of community gardening projects, while one of most outstanding highlights is the proposed annual funding to support new gardens and enhance existing ones. That said, the last sentence in the text quoted above hints that the City will limit their support of communal gardens to those on municipally owned property. Hence, the city would not support efforts to establish temporary community gardens on vacant, slacker land along Princesses Street, or elsewhere for that matter.
After a bit of research, I finally discovered that Victoria’s community gardening policy allows communal plots on private property. While their policy has numerous, potentially restrictive provisions governing the matter, the fact remains that they support community gardens on private land and Kingston does not. I’m willing to concede that many land owners would likely be opposed to permitting the establishment of temporary gardens on their vacant property, as it could be seen as an obstacle for prospective development. Even so, with another growing season on the horizon, how many of these properties are realistically going to see any sort of development before the end of summer? Wouldn’t they be better served as community gathering spaces, which contribute to beautification, sustainability as well as the local food movement in the Limestone City?
Special thanks to The Ardvaark for today’s photo of a really cool community garden in Chicago’s Logan Square.