Bob Brown shares his thoughts for an agricultural centre located in the city’s midst. MIKE YOUDS PHOTO

Gathering draws keen support for urban farm

Proponents want to use land behind Port Alberni’s Walmart

BY MIKE YOUDS

SPECIAL TO THE NEWS

Development of an agricultural centre on city-owned land along Cherry Creek Road is generating renewed interest as the City of Port Alberni sets sights on a possible feasibility study.

City councillor Chris Alemany told a group of a dozen citizens Saturday at the 6.9-hectare site behind Pacific Rim Shopping Centre that council is expected to decide in the coming months whether to seek provincial funding for the study.

The recommendation to seek grant funding through the B.C. Rural Dividend program is included in an annual report going to council from the city’s food security and climate disruption committee.

“It will take a couple of months for that just to come to city council,” he cautioned.

The provincial program assists rural communities of 25,000 people or less to reinvigorate and diversify local economies.

Several people at the roadside gathering shared their thoughts on the potential of a centre not only for farm production and marketing but for public education. The idea is hardly new; the property in question has been eyed for similar purposes for years. Proponents believe the centre could be a catalyst for more expanded agriculture throughout the valley.

Bob Brown recently refloated the idea for the centre on Facebook, which sparked a discussion that led to Saturday’s walking tour of the site. He favours an agricultural co-operative approach with a farmers market along Cherry Creek Road.

“Turn it into 2.5-acre plots with family homes,” he suggested. A similar concept has been proposed for the McLean Mill property, where small farms once grew food for local tables, he added.

Heather Shobe pointed out that considerable interest has been shown in the Cherry Creek Road site over the years. A small grower with a background in organic gardening, Shobe serves on an agricultural support team hired by Alberni Clayoquot Regional District to implement its Alberni Valley Agriculture Plan, adopted seven years ago.

The ACRD’s long-term objective is to have 40 percent of the local food supply grown locally within the next 20 years. Pinpointing the Cherry Creek Road site, the strategy focuses on a need for an agricultural centre to raise the profile of local growing and help overcome a lack of public awareness about the valley’s largely unrealized farming potential.

“There have been numerous discussions about community farms and resources,” Shobe said. “This site has been identified and discussed numerous times.”

At its December meeting the committee supported the ACRD’s efforts to pursue funding for the farm development concept.

“We anticipate that the grant would be used to develop more solid plans,” Shobe said. “It’s been talked about over many years.”

Mark Dawson, who last year founded Port Alberni Problem Solvers, a community action group, said they hope to be a part of the agricultural centre initiative once plans gel. He expects a five-year to 10-year development process.

“Sometimes stepping up and doing the right thing for the community is the thing to do,” Dawson said. “We’re willing to network with whatever group it takes to get it done.”

Dawson said opponents of the idea have in the past drowned out proponents.

“This is a great turnout,” he said. “That there’s a dozen people here today makes me extremely delighted.”

A decade ago, an application sought to have the property removed from the Agricultural Land Reserve for development of an RV park. That was denied by the Agricultural Land Commission.

“We saved it from being removed from the ALR in 2008,” said Jen Fisher-Bradley of Women’s Food and Water Initiative, another local advocacy group.

“My vision for this is to use it as a centre of support for other local agriculture,” she added.

Fisher-Bradley, who ran for city mayor in 2011, encouraged the group in its enthusiasm.

“You’re got a lot of good ideas,” she said. “Ignore the trolls. I think we’re onto something here.”

The wooded and undeveloped property is part of the Johnston Road Corridor, which has been identified by the city as a priority for development and beautification.

 

Heather Shobe, a local grower who serves on the regional district’s agricultural development committee. MIKE YOUDS PHOTO

Mark Dawson of Port Alberni Problem Solvers, a new community action group, speaks to a dozen people Saturday on proposed development of an agricultural centre along Cherry Creek Road. MIKE YOUDS PHOTO

Just Posted

Port Alberni RCMP have their eyes on impaired drivers

March 17 to 23 is National Impaired Driving Prevention Week

Premier on hand as Paper Excellence finalizes Catalyst Paper purchase

Sale includes Crofton mill, plus mills in Port Alberni and Powell River

Three people deemed heroes after rescuing another in fiery crash on B.C. highway

Two people taken to hospital following head-on collision near Port Alberni

Crews mopping up after burning field Beaver Creek near Port Alberni

Firefighters from three departments, aerial support battled large grass fire

Port Alberni prepares to welcome hundreds of Indigenous youth delegates

Gathering Our Voices event will take place in the Alberni Valley from March 19-22

VIDEO: RCMP ask kids to help name soon-to-be police dogs

13 German shepherd puppies will be born this year

British Columbia Teachers’ Federation welcomes new leader

Teri Mooring will take over as president this summer

Disappearance of Merritt cowboy now deemed suspicious: police

Ben Tyner was reported missing when his riderless horse was discovered on a logging road

Distillers hope federal budget scraps alcohol escalator tax

Tax hike set for April 1, marking third automatic increase in three years time

Kids found playing darts with syringes in Vancouver Island park

Saanich police is urging people to throw out their syringes properly and safely

BC Ferries has no plans to implement debit for vehicle ticket payments

Debit accepted for foot passengers, on-board purchases for all vessels

‘The whole city has changed:’ B.C. woman in New Zealand reacts to mosque attacks

An expatriate and Muslim students at UBC Okanagan deeply affected by white supremacist shooting

Trudeau condemns hateful, ‘toxic segments’ of society after New Zealand shooting

Prime Minister expressed sorrow at the many attacks in recent years

Air Canada grounds its Boeing Max 8s until at least July 1 to provide certainty

Airlines around the world have been working to redeploy their fleets since their Max 8s were grounded last week

Most Read