It’s hard to fathom, but there has been a rash of thefts at the Cobourg Ecology Garden.
Police have been notified, but it’s unconscionable why anyone would dig up plants at a beautiful area strictly run by volunteers.
Past Chair of the Cobourg Ecology Garden Roma Colbert said the biggest issue they are having the last several years is theft. This year particularly.
“Generally not in our presence. When we see it occurring, of course we attempt to intervene.”
But Colbert said that most of the thefts occur after dark.
“The sort of thing that people like to remove things and don’t like confrontation – they come after dark and help themselves.”
It’s almost hard to believe, but some thieves actually remove plants in the daytime when volunteers are present.
Colbert said a nicely dressed woman on a bicycle started picking the tomatoes.
When Colbert approached her to explain about the Cobourg Ecology Garden, the woman said they would ripen on her counter and thought nothing of removing them.
The bold woman then removed pepper squash, “then I had to chase her off.”
“We assume half of our food products are going there.”
But, it’s not only the food items being taken.
Colbert said that people remove even more plants and flowers than food products.
One of the new volunteers cleaned out a bed and out of her own pocket planted 12 new plants.
“A couple of days later when she came to water them, five of them had been replaced. To add insult to injury, the thief dug up some weeds from across the boardwalk and stuck them in the holes hoping that we wouldn’t notice.”
The group of volunteers who run the Cobourg Ecology Garden gets a grant an annual grant from the Town of Cobourg.
This year it was $2,000, but as much as the members appreciate it, once insurance is paid for at a cost of over $700 and soil is bought, it eats up most of the money.
Members have fundraisers throughout the year, but most of the money to run the garden ends up coming from the volunteers pockets.
Members of the group are older adults, with one being in her nineties, and they all share a love of the garden.
“It’s sad and sometimes it makes you angry because we all working very hard and we’re not young people and it takes a lot of love and effort to make this garden look as healthy and as beautiful as it is.”
Through the efforts of the volunteers, “each year the garden gets better and each year the thieves get better.”
The theft reports have been reported to police, but there is only so much they can do.
Members of the Ecology Garden are always willing and welcome visitors to ask questions about the garden.
They have spent countless hours in the garden taking care of it and Colbert said they even welcome if a young child wants to pick a flower for their mother.
“Sometimes people will come by and ask if they can have a little bit of herbs. We don’t mind that.”
But when people remove the entire plant or strip it – it goes too far.
Pepper, tomato plants, squash, herbs, sunflowers, cone flowers among others are just a few of the plants taken.
Some people help themselves to the food, while others have the audacity to make bouquets of flowers right on the picnic table in the middle of the Ecology Garden during the daytime.
Colbert has a simple request to visitors.
“Come in and love the garden. Respect the garden, maybe help the gardeners. If there is something you would like to try – talk to us. We are generally very accommodating and we appreciate your interest in our produce, in our plants and we don’t mind sharing.”