If you lived in the Warwick-Surrey Community of Burlington 30 years ago, folks used to ask if you were enjoying life down in the ghetto.
The towering apartment buildings and low-income condominiums were the site of a lot noise disturbances, vandalism, domestic disputes and even a murder.
The late George Bolus took the lead in turning the area into one residents now can be proud to call their own.
Now after six years of dealing with city and regional council, the Warwick-Surrey Community Association finally has succeeded in getting permission to establish a community vegetable garden there parallel to the Francis Road bikeway.
“This is happening as a result of a request made by the community residents themselves,” said Burlington Green’s Michelle Bennett, who will serve as co-ordinator for the gardens.
Besides giving residents a place to grow their own food, Bennett said the project will bring more eyes to the area at all times of day and hopefully reduce any vandalism that still exists.
It is expected that applications for plots and half-plots will be accepted starting Easter Weekend and running until about May 5. Anybody in Burlington is eligible to apply, but a lottery will decide the names of the successful applicants.
“If there are extra plots in other community gardens around the city, another lottery could be held for those who didn’t make the list in the Warwick-Surrey area,” Bennett said.
Karen Phelps, past chair of the association, said she expects there will be 20 full plots and 40 more half-plots up for grabs. Rental fees have not been finalized, but they are likely to be $50 and $25, respectively, for the season.
The City of Burlington will build the gardens and fence them, but Burlington Green is in charge of operating them. A nearby condominium complex will supply the water and be reimbursed for that.
Most gardeners will be able to walk to the site, but those who are unable to do so can park on the surrounding streets or on the outside edges of the Fortinos parking lot at the intersection of Plains Road E. and Francis Road.
Phelps said Ward 1 Councillor Rick Craven has been very supportive of the project, as has Brendan Hamill of the Aldershot Lions Club. Hamill has experience in maintaining the former Aldershot Lions community garden on Plains Rd. E, beside the rectory of Holy Rosary Church.
Along with his wife Cecilia and brother Steve, Bolus was responsible for sprucing up the area with flower gardens.
Then last summer, through the co-operation of the Gary W. Degroote Fund for Children & Youth, the City of Burlington and the Aldershot Lions, a brand new ball hockey court was installed for the use of children and teens.
“We may miss the spring planting season, but the gardens will be ready for the summer and fall plantings,” Phelps said.
A half-century ago, before the building boom started in Burlington, the land on the Francis Road bikeway also housed market gardens and orchards. According to the booklet “The Story of Aldershot, A Special Place with a Special History’, by Edwin Broadus, the area was known for its sugar-salmon cantaloupes, and in 1931 2,000 20-quart baskets of melons were picked and packed daily for shipment across Canada.
Further information can be obtained by calling Burlington Green at 905- 466-2171.
By: Dennis Gibbons