Vandals target community garden
Crime: Gardeners frustrated with damage to downtown plots
By: Tammy Rollie
| Posted: Wednesday, Sep 25, 2013 10:18 am
When an Okotoks man approached his garden plot in the Okotoks Community Garden to see how his vegetables were coming along, it was like the scene of a bad comedy show.
Milt Baxter, who’s had a plot in the community garden for two years, found tomatoes and other vegetables strewn around the grounds on Sept. 7.
“I noticed tomatoes outside the gate,” he said. “They (vandals) had gotten in there and thrown tomatoes around and zucchinis and onions and carrots.”
In his own plot, Baxter’s carrots were pulled out and left lying on the ground nearby.
“A lot of people put a lot of work into the garden and kids come in there and destroy it,” he said. “You put a lot of work into it, you want the produce out of it, you water it, you weed it and then something like this happens. It’s discouraging. If it’s going to keep up I’m not going to do it anymore.”
Baxter, who lives close to the garden, said he heard people partying in Kinsmen Park the night before and wondered if that might be related to the incident.
When he visited the garden the following morning the gate was open.
Okotoks Community Garden president Chris Mills said this is the third time in as many weeks vegetables were torn out of the garden’s plots and strewn about.
“It was nothing that’s not replaceable but what’s really disturbing is everyone has been working on their garden and then go in and find out all the carrots have been pulled out,” he said. “One garden in the corner grew a beautiful row of sunflowers and they were all torn down.”
Vandalism has been an issue at the garden in the past. Last spring, someone pulled down the water barrels, damaged waterspouts and broke signs on three separate occasions, said Mills.
Vandalism in the garden has been sporadic over the years, but the incidents this season has members frustrated.
“A couple of them said ‘I’m not coming back,’” said Mills. “Why would you? You take this time and trouble and then you come and find it all wrecked.”
Mills said the incidents will be discussed at the next Healthy Okotoks Coalition meeting at the end of September.
“I’m not sure how we are going to deal with this,” he said. “We are going to have to take a good hard look at what will have to be done to deal with this.”
Mills said he’s been in touch with the RCMP and bylaw enforcement in Okotoks about monitoring the area and learned bylaw services operate from 7 a.m. to midnight and the RCMP are often too busy to patrol the area.
RCMP Cst. Michel Sevigny said the RCMP do their best to patrol the community, targeting areas where they have the most issues, but they cover a large area.
“We have to cover town and country so we try to balance everything out,” he said. “There is a fixed amount of individuals.”
Mills considered preventing further instances by placing barbed wire on top of the chain link fence, but a permit currently prevents that option, he said.
The lock to the gate will be changed, he said, adding many members struggle with closing it and he wonders if that’s why the gate was left open.
“I think some people attempt to close it and then get frustrated and don’t bother,” he said. “We’ve got to look at a different locking system that’s much simpler for people. That combination has been around for 10 years and it may well be some people know that combination who aren’t part of the garden.”
As for why the garden continues to be a target for vandals, Mills said he thinks it’s the location.
The area is decorated with picnic tables and Mills said he came across vodka bottles in the area on more than one occasion.
“It’s a very convenient place to party if you want to be away from view,” he said. “It has been a party destination for a while and someone suggested taking the picnic tables away. They have been there for years but I don’t see people using them (during the day) at all.”