As a result of the QEII Redevelopment Project new construction, the Common Roots Urban Farm will be relocated. The farm will stay in its current location until the end of the 2018 growing season.

In April of 2018, we held a public meeting to gather public opinion and support for where the farm might relocate.  The full results of the public engagement can be found here.

Fortuitously, one of our volunteer Advisory Committee members, Linzey Bedard, was completing her Advanced Diploma in GIS at the Centre of Geographic Sciences (COGS) in Lawrencetown. For her final project, she took the results of the public meeting and used GIS to analyze the potential sites through the criteria defined in that meeting. She utilized the Halifax Open Data Catalogue API layers to help filter and analyze the relevant data.   The results are summarized below.

We started with the top sites, on the peninsula, named at the Public engagement.  These include: Fort Needham Park, Bloomfield Centre, George Dixon Centre, 6699 Bayers Road, Halifax Common, former St. Pat’s Highschool, Saunders Park, the Brentwood apartment complex, and Gorsebrook Park.

Jumping right to the results, here is a summary of how each site meets the criteria.

Below, we’ll get into the analysis and update on each of these sites.

Starting with the former St. Pat’s HighSchool site, on Quinpool Road:

St. Pats does look like a perfect fit, meeting 100% of our criteria, including being on the peninsula and still near to a health care facility.  (It would actually be close enough that we could wheelbarrow parade much of our soil and plants there, which would be a memorable spectacle of a farm move).  Unfortunately, we have spoken to various staff and Councillors in HRM and are consistently told that the site will be sold, because of the high revenue potential.   If anyone wants to buy this land for us, please get in touch! 😉  There is an active campaign to maintain this open space as public green space, – a campaign which we support, but we need to focus our limited energy on the most good and sure thing.

Ft. Needham Park is another wonderful place in the city, with some interesting potential, but also multiple limitations.  Much of the park is either sloped or used.  The park was recently renovated and is fabulous, especially for children: If you haven’t been recently, go check it out.  There is one area that appears rarely used and flat enough to be a potential: the southern arm of park (the light green rhombus near the bottom right of the image above).  We are inquiring with HRM to see if there are plans for this part of the park.

One challenge that we know of is that there is currently an Administrative Order stating that a community garden can only take up 5% of the park, so as not to infringe upon other usages.  Looking at the site, it is possible that this area is around 5% of the total park, so it might not end up being a barrier.  While it is not on a major bus route, it is serviced by the #7.  Getting water up to that area would be very expensive.

The George Dixon Centre another HRM park & recreational facility on Gottingen Street.  While the site looks big, the areas of the site that are both flat enough and un-programmed are very small.  (Also, Hope Blooms is very close to the George Dixon Centre).

Gorsebrook looks like another really great site, from above – it meets nearly all the criteria including being near the hospital, on major bus routes, and highly visible.  But, it is very hilly, and there is already a thriving community garden there.  We met with HRM staff on this site, along with the Community Garden Coordinator for the PUGS Garden and agreed that there was no good way to add Common Roots to this site.  Sigh.

The Halifax Common… this probably deserves it’s own essay, and more research.  The short of it is that, while perfectly situated, the timing will likely not work for moving the heart of Common Roots.  There is a new Common Master Plan process underway, which will be passed by Council, sometime this winter, which does not give us the time needed to make plans.  Plus, there are a few legal and governance challenges (this is where the full essay and more research are needed). All to say, better to think about the Common as a future potential, more for community gardens and edible landscaping, that will require a lot of conversations.  But not a viable option for moving Common Roots to.

Saunders Park, along Chebucto Road, just south of Connaught, is another interesting potential.  The site is large, on multiple bus routes, is on the peninsula, and un-programmed.  We are inquiring with HRM about this site.  One challenge will be the Administrative Order that currently only allows that 5% of a park be used for a community garden.  The other is that we have not yet spoken with neighbouring residents to see if they would consider an urban farm to be a good neighbour and appropriate land use.

The Brentwood is a Killam owned property near the Mumford mall and bus terminal.  While it appears to score quite low, there is some really interesting potential here.  The land is quite large and sunny, and wraps around a large apartment building.  Killam Properties is interested in working with us; they see it as a great amenity for their tenants.  It is only 300 m away from the Mumford Bus terminal, which is further than our target of 200m away from multiple transit routes.  It would be a 5 minute walk or roll for most transit users. It is just barely on the peninsula. In an ideal world, this would be a secondary urban farm site – not our headquarters and teaching farm, but a supported site that is well used by the many nearby tenants.

(6699 Bayers)

The last site on this list, 6699 Bayers Road.  It is on the corner of Bayers and Connaught, kitty corner from the gas station there.  It is an empty lot, that is surprisingly big.  It fulfils many of the criteria – on bus routes, visible, accessible, publicly owned… but we’ve heard that the city plans to widen Bayers at some point soon so will use part of this land.  It is also high traffic, and just barely on the peninsula.  This land is owned by HRM and we are inquiring about it, thought the though of it being a road construction zone in the near future lessons the appeal.

There are two other sites that we have been looking into, that were not part of this GIS analysis:  Windsor Park, military managed land around the baseball diamonds  near St Catherine’s School; and 530 Herring Cove Road, a vacant lot near Chebucto Connections brought to our attention by the Spryfield Community Association.   We are actively looking into both of them.  We’ve asked if Linzey can run these two sites through her GIS analysis too, and will add them to this blog as soon as we get them.