Garden planned for empty land

A derelict patch of land south of Monarch Park may soon be sprouting food, thanks to the efforts of a few local mothers on maternity leave.

Miranda Snyder said she walked past the spot, at the north end of Woodfield Road beside the pedestrian underpass to Monarch Park, for a couple of years, and the proverbial wheels started turning.

“We have been walking by that space several times a day for a couple of years and wondering if there’s a better way we could start interacting with that space,” she said.

A look into the history of the land, which is over 450 square metres, showed that it’s been unused for decades. While one group attempted a similar project several years ago, there was a miscommunication with the city, and the group gave up on the project after city workers tilled over everything that had been planted. With help from Ward 30 councillor Paula Fletcher and the Ashdale Village Residents’ Association,  The Rail Garden was born.

The first meeting about the garden drew 40 people, said Snyder, and the core group of four organizers is confident they will be able to raise the money to start out with 10 raised garden beds this year; more are planned for future years.

“We already have more applications than space,” she said. “We just feel like it’s a great community initiative, we’re really excited about transforming this unused public space into something that the community can really interact with.”

Although the plots will be allotted through a lottery process, the  Riverdale Immigrant Women’s Centre has been given one plot. Snyder also hopes to involve nearby Roden Public School in coming years as well.

Snyder feels the Gerrard East neighbourhood is reaching a “tipping point in terms of community engagement,” with the garden just one part of a greater movement including the Gerrard East Community Organization, the Ashdale Village Residents’ Association, the Gerrard India Bazaar BIA, and a number of new residents eager to get involved in their neighbourhood.

To help raise funds for startup costs for the garden, there is a night of comedy planned for April 14 at the Riverdale Hub, at 1326 Gerrard Street East. A $20 ticket includes laughs from a baker’s dozen of East End funnywomen and men.

“If this is successful and we’re able to raise a little money, that would be great. If we’re able to build a little community, that would be amazing too,” said Snyder.

For more information visit therailgarden.com.

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