By Cecilia Nasmith/Today’s Northumberland
One of the ways that the Cobourg Ecology Garden is unique is that it is maintained by volunteers, instead of by staffers from the parks department.
With restrictions on the use of parks in effect during the COVID-19 pandemic, Cobourg Ecology Gardeners chair Dora Body approached council at Monday’s committee-of-the-whole meeting for approval to do basic maintenance on the plot of land at the foot of Hibernia Street.
Body set out a proposal detailing precautions in four areas.
Scheduling – No two people will be working in the garden at any time and – when two people are present – one would work in the east section and one in the west.
Interaction with visitors to the garden – Physical distancing will be practised when people pass through, Body said. And visitors will be advised that the maintenance is being done with town approval, and that restrictions on the use of park facilities remain in effect.
Proposed actions – These include post-winter clean-up and maintenance of garden beds to fight ticks and such noxious or invasive flora as poison ivy and dog-strangling vines. Other tasks include lawn mowing and whipper-snipping to control ticks, raking and weeding of pathways to keep them safe for use, on-going litter clean-up, and watering as needed.
What will not be done – While restrictions remain in effect, no new projects will be started in the garden and no further development of the pop-up forest will take place.
Body anticipated the question of what might happen if no maintenance is allowed. She listed several issues.
· With no garden clean-up in April, ticks are getting a good foothold that can only increase as the grass starts growing.
· Neglected and overgrown pathways could become a liability issue, especially in the case of the accessibility path often used by visitors with mobility issues or visual impairment.
· Vandalism, litter and theft of plants will be exacerbated without the visible presence of volunteers in the garden.
· The litter is a special concern, she said. Broken glass is an obvious danger, and discarded food attracts vermin.
Though many flowers and shrubs would likely survive a season of neglect, the beds would be overtaken by grass, weeds, debris, litter and invasive plants that would require an Herculean effort in 2021.
“Given that we are a small number of volunteers, who are all seniors, we would be in danger of losing a number of our members if we are faced with hacking a garden out of a jungle next year,” Body said.
“Since it’s extremely difficult to attract new members, we would have to enter into discussion with the town as to what type of support the town could provide for the continued existence of the Ecology Garden.”
In these difficult times, Body said, the Ecology Garden plays a special role for Cobourg residents.
“By approving our proposal for basic maintenance, it could be helping demonstrate new hope and new beginnings for the Town of Cobourg,” she stated.
Councillor Nicole Beatty pointed out that Community Gardens are now able to operate within social-distancing measures, but she wondered what requirements might apply to the Ecology Garden. Acting chief administrative officer Ian Davey figures that would be similar to what is required for the Community Gardens.
“If they provide a copy of those protocols, I think that is sufficient for the town,” Davey said.
Councillor Emily Chorley’s motion, which council passed, called for granting the Ecology Gardne permission to carry out maintenance as described, and that a letter of permission for this work by issued by the town.
Mayor John Henderson told Body that the Haliburton Kawartha Pine Ridge District Health Unit has issued guidelines for the Community Gardens and suggested they might be beneficial for Body’s group to study.
“I thank you for being an advocate for the Ecology Garden, and thank you for the delegation tonight.”