A lone gardener tends his plot behind Varsity Courts on Wed. June 19. A road will soon run through the current garden location to accomodate the new Childrens Hospital.
The Gauntlet

Gardeners upset at road

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While the gardening season came late this year, the fate of this summer's Varsity Courts garden has been debated for quite some time.

A road planned to accommodate the new Alberta Childrens' Hospital on the University of Calgary's West Campus will run through the current garden site outside the Student Family Housing area. The garden will be relocated once construction begins this fall, but according to Varsity Courts Garden Committee member Dave Clark the new space will be inadequate.

"It took 28 years of students' labour to establish this organic garden," said Clark. "We measured number of plots and it seems to me [the new site] was one-third of what we had."

Residence Services General Manager George Thompson disputes that assessment.

"This is because it's the first part [of the new garden] that actually got worked on," explained Thompson. "We've only completed a part of it at this point."

Originally, the road was to be completed this summer, destroying the garden before the end of the growing season. Thompson said it was delayed until fall to accommodate this year's garden and address concerns.

"The gardeners wanted to garden on [the new space] and since the road construction was not happening until this fall, we were able to accommodate them both," said Thompson.

Aside from the new space, Clark has other issues with the new road including environmental and privacy concerns.

"It seems like a strange choice [for the road location]," said Clark. "This habitat enriches the life of everyone at the university and in communities surrounding us. This is also a residential area with families and children and it's a big road with a lot of traffic."

Clark would be satisfied with moving the road even 100 feet west, something Thompson said is not possible at this point in development.

"There was opportunity for everyone's involvement last year," said Thompson, noting a series of consultation meetings in 2001. "Unfortunately, Dave [Clark] is coming to the table a little too late."

Despite Thompson's assertions that residents were given notice from Varsity Courts Association President Cecilia Montes de Oca, Clark said residents knew neither about the meetings nor the development.

"We canvassed 140 people in Varsity Courts and only six people were aware of the road," said Clark. "I think it's willful repression by the university."

However, the development plans cannot be changed at this point.

"The west development is taking place," said Thompson. "I would think there would be no changes. It has already been through city planning."