The second walk I attended was in North Central Regina and focused on that neighbourhood’s efforts with community gardens.
One reason I was excited to do this walk was my unfamiliarity with the North Central area. Growing up in the South end, the only time I would travel near North Central would be during Rider games. The shops along Dewdney weren’t of interest (an exception being a few trips to Phoenix Books before it moved to Broad Street) and in general without a reason to be there we didn’t go near North Central.
The neighbourhood doesn’t have the greatest reputation in Regina and there are problems in that community which reflect that feeling. For every problem, however, there are numerous individuals, groups, organizations and initiatives, probably more than any other neighbourhood in the city, working hard to support the people of North Central and build community.
After the break is my Jane’s walk encounter with some of those groups.
(Map Source: Jessica Hanna North Central Community Association)
The North Central Community Gardens walk, like the Ukrainian Settlement walk before it, began with an indoor presentation about the creation of the gardens. The North Central Community Garden project began in 2007 with Grow Regina using an area lot, that hadn’t been developed yet, as garden space. The gardeners partner with neighbouring homes to provide water, these citizens also often act as eyes on the garden to engage with people.
The slogan of the gardens project is “help yourself!” which contains many meanings. The slogan relates to the availability of the produce to anyone, people can pick as they like. Gardens have information signage about the plants to educate residents and prevent premature harvesting. The project is about enabling people to garden, to take the lessons they’ve been taught at the community garden and transfer them to their homes and backyards.
In 2008 the North Central Community Gardens were awarded winners of the Recreating Eden/Vision TV Community Garden Initiative which they turned into garden implements.
Land, soil and mulch are provided by the City of Regina. The community association was paying a small rent on the land but now it is free. Besides the City, many volunteers from youth groups, gardening groups, a University of Regina economics class and most importantly, local residents of all ages lend a hand. In fact, the kick off for Spring planting is Saturday June 5, 9 am-3 pm (Facebook and Youtube).
On our walk we visited all the gardens in the area. Walk guide Jan Morier encouraged us to use our imaginations to turn the muddy, bare plots of land into the verdant landscapes of July and August. I was very interested in the gardening information signage detailing when to plant, water, and harvest the different vegetables growing in the garden.
There was a significant amount of damage done to the gardens over the winter and vandalism seems to be a problem. When we visited, the new shed which housed their implements, had recently been vandalized. When we visited, the new shed which housed their implements, had recently been vandalized. Guides Jan Morier and Jessica Hanna had a remarkable resilience when it came to these setbacks. The attitude was very determined and defiant, and Jan in particular made it clear that her group would clean up and rebuild and continue to do so.
The gardens are also trying new techniques and plants with some of the newer spaces growing native species and a move to begin straw-bale planting.
Lastly, a non garden related point of interest was a house on Robinson St. and 8th Ave which is the fabled originator of the Girl Guide cookie. City Council, the Monday before last, received the Girl Guides at the beginning of the council meeting. Showing some local solidarity with the cookie house, Ward 6 councilor Wade Murray bought a case of cookies to enjoy during the meeting. Who can blame him, Girl Guide cookies are delicious.
Before the Jane’s Walk had begun, two young women came by to advertise a noon hour Community BBQ at the Four Directions Community Health Centre, 3510 5th Avenue. The young women were from Student Energy in Action for Regina Community Health (SEARCH) a student and mentor volunteer group who provide access to clinical and social services each Saturday 10 am-2 pm. According to their pamphlet, the volunteers comprise two teams: the social team and clinical team. The social team is often first year students who provide child care and programing. The clinical team includes a physician mentor and students pursuing health care professions like medicine, social work, nursing and pharmacy.
I had lunch on the folks at SEARCH, and there was a good crowd of people enjoying burgers and hotdogs. I was joined by the Jane’s Walk guides who knew and chatted with people working with SEARCH and some who were there for lunch.
I think the sort of community connections I saw in North Central are very hard to come by in other Regina neighbourhoods. There are many different organizations, and I could imagine it might be difficult to bring them together in meaningful ways. What I saw in my time was two groups in solidarity, trying to tackle some of the same issues in different ways.