A local resident is concerned that a new community garden is being set up right by the Squamish Estuary in an area that's been regularly frequented by bears.Anne Bright, a resident at Eaglewind in downtown Squamish, said she's worried that moving Squamish CAN's community garden from downtown to the area right beside the Eaglewind tennis courts will put many attractants right in front of animals.
Squamish CAN has entered a five-year license agreement for a land plot north of the Eaglewind tennis courts at 1170 Bailey Street to operate a community garden.
The District says in June 2018, the council of the day passed a motion to direct staff to explore options that would relocate the Downtown Squamish CAN community gardens to existing District parks and lands, after which staff began to work with Squamish CAN to determine an appropriate location.
"The location was chosen due to its proximity to downtown, having sufficient land both to relocate existing plots and to add more plots, close connection to water and collaboration opportunities with District-managed community gardens," reads a statement from the municipality.However, Bright, who has volunteered for WildSafeBC, said she's wondering if this is the right move.
In that area, many efforts have been taken to remove attractants in the residential development because of the bears, but adding a community garden may introduce attractants in the area, she said."We have a problem area, and they've deemed it a problem area," said Bright.
She said officials have been asking residents to store their garbage totes inside their garages, take down bird feeders and remove any attractants.Bright said this makes it puzzling as to why people would be allowed to grow food in that area.
The move of Squamish CAN's garden arrives after it had been leasing land in downtown from August Jack on a year-to-year basis."We knew that it wasn't going to be forever home, and we have been looking for a new one over the past two years," the society says on its website.
"Thanks to Barb Hinde, our previous community garden manager, she was able to help secure a five-year lease with the District of Squamish. The new space will be on the north side of the tennis courts downtown Squamish and will have over 100 garden beds."Bright said there are three bear dens in the nearby area that she knows of.
Bright also noted that the community garden appears to have gone up with little or no input.In response to Bright's concerns, the District of Squamish and Squamish CAN issued a written statement.
Regarding public input, the District and Squamish CAN said the license agreement was handled through the District's delegation bylaw.The delegation bylaw allows council to empower staff with the ability to make their own decisions on matters. This means not every call staff makes will have to be put forward at a public council meeting for approval.
The District said that notice regarding the community garden was given via its newsletter and paid advertisements in The Chief.
"As with all community and school gardens projects, Squamish CAN has consulted with the District's wildlife co-ordinator through each stage of the community garden to ensure minimal human and wildlife conflict. Several measures have been taken, including implementing gardener guidelines so as not to plant sweet berries or fruit and prohibiting outside household compost," reads the statement."It's worth noting that while community gardens can attract wildlife, they are not as high of a concern as garbage and organics totes, fruit trees and bird feeders. "
A non-electric fence will be built to protect the garden. No trees will be located nearby, which means bears won't be able to climb up trees and access the land."District staff removed non-native oak trees to reduce potential for attracting bears to the area, and will also be removing invasive plants, including blackberries, around the perimeter of the garden," the statement continues.
"To further minimize wildlife attractants, Squamish CAN will be removing excess compost each week during harvesting season and will continue to work with the District's Wildlife Office to adjust practices as required."