For close to 10 years, we, the undersigned volunteers, have designed and maintained the 21 gardens along Roncesvalles Avenue, in partnership with the Roncesvalles Village BIA (RVBIA). We embraced that task with enthusiasm after the street was redesigned and rebuilt, and at a time when the RVBIA did not have adequate funds to pay for the upkeep of the street beds.
It is with great sadness, therefore, that we have chosen to leave that relationship, and end our commitment to create gardens that were diverse, environmentally friendly and increasingly filled with native and pollinator plants. We believe our years of volunteer street gardening, which won awards, contributed to Roncesvalles’ unique identity as a community.
Last December, the RVBIA streetscape committee hired a landscaping company, Urban Garden, to prepare a report for redesigning the gardens to create a uniform look, with repeating patterns and colours. A small outspoken group within the RVBIA were pressing for a commercial style to fit with the street rebranding they were envisioning.
We were not informed of these plans and were not invited to the table until January. By that time the clock was ticking, with the plant-ordering and planting season fast approaching.
We prepared seven submissions for the RVBIA’s streetscape committee, including a recap of the gardens’ history and eco-friendly objectives, a description of changing growing conditions, suggestions for native and pollinator plants that would fulfil the RVBIA’s vision, a list of possible eco-friendly consultants who could work with us and the RVBIA to redesign the beds, and suggestions for the Request for Quote that the RVBIA streetscape committee planned to issue for the garden redesign and maintenance in March. Our input was largely ignored or rejected, other than a concession to include pollinator plants.
In the end, no contractor submitted a bid to the first Request for Quote. In mid-April, a meeting was called to discuss a contingency plan. But, what was supposed to be the RVBIA’s first working committee meeting with us degenerated into a cascade of criticism of the gardens and an approach on the part of the RVBIA members present that made constructive discussion impossible.
The joy and satisfaction we had felt as volunteers, contributing to the community, managing the Roncesvalles Avenue gardens and nurturing the plants, was shattered. We agreed unanimously not to continue with a partnership that was now so compromised. We informed the BIA that we would not continue.
Another Request for Quote was posted in early May. The contract, now awarded to Urban Garden, includes removing virtually all plant materials “in all beds in order to achieve the desired uniformity and functionality.”
The RVBIA let us know their decision and offered us a chance to come back and stay involved. But, given their plans to remove all of the existing garden plants; to impose uniformity; as well as the likely impact of their digging on tree roots in the ten large beds; and the lack of respect shown by members of the RVBIA’s Streetscape Committee for our work and advice, the prospect of re-engaging as volunteers holds no appeal to us. We feel that having a mix of garden styles was a strength, not a weakness.
However, we are grateful for the many years that we have worked together to bring some beauty and interest to the street. We are also grateful for all the support, encouragement and praise we’ve received from the community and from the RVBIA in the past. And, of course, we will continue to shop locally to help Roncesvalles businesses survive and thrive.
RoncyWorks Green Team:
John & Hilary
Peter & Corinne