Community Garden looks to address water woes

Ken Kellar

A local group is asking the Town of Fort Frances for help addressing a water shortage.

The Fort Frances Community Garden made a presentation to town council on Monday evening asking for help in addressing the issues it is facing as more and more members of the public become interested in having a plot at the north end garden space.

“Our garden collective has 80 plus gardeners and members, and our kids Garden Club includes 20 plus kids,” said Elaine Fischer, health promoter for the Northwestern Health Unit and a community garden committee member.

“Since 2012, through the work of many of these people, the garden has grown, improved and expanded almost every year to meet community needs… We actually don’t have a water source at the garden. We’ve always used water totes and relied heavily on volunteers to run water from nearby homes to fill totes for gardeners.”

According to Fischer, the Fort Frances Community Garden currently has 119 garden spaces; 45 ground plots, 54 raised beds and 20 kids garden plots. In order to provide water for all the garden spaces, two main volunteers -named during the presentation as Blaine and Bill- run more than 650 feet of garden hose from their homes in order to fill up the garden’s tanks and totes, and Fischer said all of that hose, water and time adds up.

“We’re currently filling at least 11 250-gallon water tanks at least weekly to keep up with the water demands of the garden,” she explained.

“Depending on water pressure it takes 60 plus minutes to fill each tote. So again, volunteerism is key for water and the project.”

Fischer noted the Community Garden committee held a meeting to brainstorm possible solutions before their presentation to the town, and eventually came up with three options that they considered feasible to present to council. Community Garden member Carey Basaraba presented the three options to council.

The first option, Basaraba noted, was for a lockable valve assembly to be installed on the fire hydrant located closest to the garden space, which he said was about 300 feet away.

“The garden would secure 300 feet of fire hose to fill the existing tanks on site,” Basaraba explained.

“Hoses would be removed and stored after every use, with a lock assembly placed on the garden during Garden season for the valve.”

Basaraba said this option would also not hinder the town or fire department from accessing the hydrant in the case of an emergency or routine maintenance.

“Option two is the installation of a large water tank,” Basaraba said.

“What we were looking at doing was building a pad and putting a 5,000 gallon plus water tank in a central location, probably between the two gardens, and then use either a generator or siphoning whatever to fill the totes.”

The final option the Community Garden presented to town council would be to trench a waterline into the ditch along Lillie Ave. to connect the fire hydrant to the garden space, with both ends of the line being locked in order to prevent anyone from tampering with or opening the line and hydrant valves without permission.

In all cases, Basaraba stressed that the Community Garden would follow whatever regulations the town deemed necessary to put in place regarding implementation, operation and training.

“All safety measure would be followed, and any recommendations by the town will be put in place and maintained by the Fort Frances Community Garden,” Basaraba said.

“The use of the hydrant, locking cabinet and the hoses will only be completed by volunteers that have had training suitable for the town, whether the fire department wants to train or they need somebody specific to train them on how to turn the hydrant on, what to look for. It’s just not going to be open for everybody, and it will be locked up and need proper authorization.”

Following the presentation by the Community Garden committee, Councillor Doug Judson asked about some of the grants they had accessed in the past, as well as if there were additional grant sources that the Community Garden might still be able to access. Fischer noted that they have applied to many different sources for funding in previous years, and are always looking for more.

“We pretty much go after whatever we can,” Fischer said, noting that they have received funding from local businesses, the TD Friends of the Environment grant, and the Moffat Fund, among others.

“If we see it we go for it. And with this type of project we realized that there could be some capital expenditures and with these fiscal constraints, this community is more than willing to do what they can to support the town.”

Town council approved that the matter be put to the Operations and Facilities committee for a recommendation, and Fischer said she felt the presentation was received positively.

“I think there was a positive response from town staff and councillors. We’re looking forward to working on this together,” she said.

“It’s a large issue for us. Without a solution, there’s definitely no further expansion. We have room to expand, but we don’t have the capacity to expand at this stage.”