As soon as I read about Projects in Place, their mandate and project base, I knew I wanted to climb on board. So far my experience with them has been nothing short of amazing. They are a group of friendly, sincere, and appreciative people who provide encouragement and quite simply, give me fun stuff to do. My first project with them was to develop a design and help facilitate the construction for a new Community Garden for the Atira Women’s Shelter. Woowhaa! Awesome!
The site is situated behind the Rice Block building on Hawks Avenue in the Strathcona neighborhood of Vancouver. The site was an absolute dump! A vacant lot filled with trash, construction debris, drug paraphernalia, and an old house foundation. The design solution sought to create a space to grow organic produce to subsidize the meals for the shelter, and to provide an urban oasis for people to relax and enjoy themselves. The design incorporated: raised planter boxes, a patio made with recycled brick and stepable ground cover, a raspberry/strawberry patch, blueberry patch, a garden shed, compost bins, a peach cover, lattice screens for grape production, entry trellis, crushed gravel ramp, cold frames for seed production, a chain link fence and gate, mixed perennial/shrub planting beds, and irrigation. And guess what?! We built it all in one day!
The bulk of the construction group was a Grade 11 Class from a High school in from the Fraser Valley. They were very gracious to donate their time, energy, materials, and expertise to get the job done. And boy did they ever! With guidance from their principle and teacher, they all seemed very knowledgeable of construction techniques, problem solved with skill, and showed enough creativity and energy that could of shot us to the moon.
As the designer, it was extremely rewarding to be part of the build process. To make collaborative decisions, to help lead the team, and simply to pick up a shovel or pull out the measuring tape to create my vision was so much fun. Even as unexpected issues came up like discovering that the wood they brought was pressure treated so we had to order non treated wood on a rush, or that we needed more screws, or that we needed more gravel, I enjoyed working through it. There certainly were several points in the day where I thought we would never get it all finished, but amazingly, we planted the last few perennials just as the clock struck 5:00. Ha, all in days work.
The next project is coming up soon for the Zajac Ranch Children’s camp in Mission. I’m certainly looking forward to meeting more members from Projects in Place and putting my hands in the dirt for another good cause!
By Tenille Ziegenhagel