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Aiming to grow community at Metrotown

Rick McGowan has dozens of neighbours in his Metrotown condo building. But he barely knows any of them.

He’d like to change that by establishing a community garden and compost demonstration project on an empty lot owned by the City of Burnaby on Halley Avenue.

The city acquired the lot, and another adjacent to it off Chaffey Avenue, years ago with the intent of extending Sardis Street through to Chaffey.

But in 2008, when residents objected to a proposed townhouse development to be built next to the road, the plan was scuttled.

In 2012, Burnaby council decided it would subdivide the lots to put a public pathway linking Halley and Chaffey and sell off the rest to a developer to build a couple of single-family homes or duplexes.

But McGowan thinks what his neighbourhood, situated just north of Grange and west of Willingdon, really needs is a place to gather, get their hands dirty and meet their neighbours.

“It’s a place for people to talk and just enjoy nature and understand where their food comes from,” said McGowan.

Andrew Couzens passes plenty of community gardens when he rides his bike to work along the B.C. Parkway. They make him smile. And long for the chance to grow his own carrots, lettuce, spinach, kale and strawberries.

While the residents in his condo complex, right next to the city lots, are already close-knit, they don’t really have an outdoor space where they can gather casually and catch-up, or share a common interest.

And with so many young families in the area, a community garden would be a good place to teach city kids about where their food comes from.

“You have to start young to get people to care about their food,” said Couzens.

McGowan agrees a garden could have a huge educational benefit.

In a proposal he submitted to the community development committee he said using the garden as a pilot project to demonstrate and teach residents how to properly compost their food scraps would go a long way to helping the city achieve its zero-waste goals..

That’s especially important for the residents of the many strata buildings in the neighbourhood that have been less-than-enthusiastic about implementing the multi-family food scraps program that was launched in 2012.

“Some stratas are concerned about problems with odours, flies and rats, while others are simply waiting for the city to enforce compliance with the program,” said McGowan.

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