›› Lee Herrin
Over the last 10 years, I have written a number of editorials about Spring Ridge Common(s), and it is time for another stroll down the woodchip covered path of memories. The Common grows on land owned by the Greater Victoria School District (SD61), who were kind enough to offer the land, but required a local group be responsible for any issues. Since 2010, Fernwood NRG has held the lease. When we assumed the lease, we agreed “to maintain the site as a permaculture garden,” which was to be maintained by volunteers from other organizations. However, maintaining a large garden with minimal resources and volunteers of varying levels of commitment has been a constant challenge, and over the years there were numerous times when the situation at the site was untenable. In 2014, some neighbours took matters into their own hands and cut back many plants themselves. Since then, there have been better and worse years, but the site has increasingly attracted an element that some neighbours thought was undesirable.
In 2017, the School District signed a one year lease renewal rather than the standard two year renewal. In November of 2018, a neighbour complained to the City of Victoria Bylaw Enforcement that there were branches overhanging the sidewalk. The complaint eventually made its way to me, and I had our maintenance person cut back the branches in question. However, in discussing the matter with the School District, I noted that our lease had lapsed as of October 31st. I told the School District we would take care of the branches, but that I was waiting for a renewal notice.
In February of 2019, another complaint came in (directly to me) about people using the site inappropriately. I contacted the School District to remind them the lease had not been renewed. At that time, I was informed that it was not going to be renewed because the site was part of the potential “land swap” between the School District, the City of Victoria and the Capital Region Housing Corporation (see cover story). The next day, a number of the School District’s maintenance staff arrived with equipment and tools and heavily pruned back the site. As well, they removed the benches, the gazebo and other built features. As always, some people are happy about this turn of events while others are devastated. As for Fernwood NRG, our role is now only to pass complaints along to the School Board.
And so, at least in the medium term, this is no longer a neighbourhood controlled resource. Ultimately, the future of the site and its ownership is tied to the successful conclusion of the land swap, which is in turn tied to the Capital Regional Housing Corporation receiving the requisite development approvals for the Caledonia project. This is an emerging story and we will have to wait to see how it unfolds.