Gabriola Commons HistoryFrom Dream to Reality
In Spring 2005 a trio of community-minded Gabriolans purchased a 26-acre goat farm in the Gabriola village core with the idea of transforming it into a community commons.
Community visioning from 2005-2007:
Drafting community needs and potential uses for the land and amenities
To assist the community to engage with and plan for a community commons, several well-attended open houses and workshops were held, culminating in a three-day From Dream to Design workshop in November 2005 that produced a draft of community needs and potential uses for the land and amenities.
A steering committee of volunteers stepped forward to meet bi-weekly over the next two years to bring the Gabriola Commons into being, planning logistics such as potential land-use bylaws, agricultural and non-agricultural uses, ownership and governance options, protection of the land in perpetuity and financial viability.
The community continues this visioning process every 5 years.
A three-day community consultation produced an outline of Gabriolans’ ideas for a community commons.
Integration with the Gabtriola Official Community Plan
During this same time, 2005-2008, a study of the future needs of the Gabriola community was undertaken as part of a review of its Official Community Plan (OCP).
Because of its location, the goat farm was seen as an ideal location for “not-for-profit” community-focussed purposes.
The land is rezoned to Gabriola Commons Comprehensive Zone in 2010.
The community had additional dreams and plans that would suit the land and location but which were beyond its use in agriculture.
In 2006, volunteers with expertise did baseline soil and ecological surveys and prepared a detailed proposal for the BC Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) for non-agricultural uses of the land. This was subsequently approved by the ALC.
This was followed in mid-2007 with an application to the Islands Trust for a land-use bylaw amendment, balancing a diversity of proposed land uses, including some non-agricultural, multi-purpose uses.
In 2010 the Islands Trust approved the rezoning and created the “Gabriola Commons Comprehensive Zone”. [LINK OCP files HERE]
With this remarkable act, the Gabriola Commons became a unique and distinct property on Gabriola with zoning that recognizes and enshrines the vision and spirit of a community commons, likely the only designation of its kind in Canada.
Learn more about the global Community Commons.
Over the years, exciting new projects continue to be realized.
Open community consultations have been held every 5 years since From Dream to Design.
Over the years while attending to the financial, legal and regulatory requirements, a number of exciting projects have been realized adding to the rich and diverse use of the land supported by individuals’ donations and grants.
- A former cheese making plant has been converted into a Community Kitchen.
- A solar array and a new septic field have been installed, as well as new roofs for the goat barn and farmhouse.
- A boules court now enriches the recreation and social gathering potential of the open spaces.
- a labyrinth offers a place for peaceful meditation.
In 2020, a 25,000 gallon reservoir was constructed to increase water reserves for growers and to protect the pond species, its top providing an accessible stage for outdoor performances of all kinds.
Our Commons journey continues
The Commons continues to meet community needs as they arise and hold space for that which is yet undreamed.
This journey hasn’t always been smooth or easy, it is constantly evolving and is often deliciously – or frustratingly – messy. But that’s the joy and challenge of a commons, often asking difficult and unsettling questions about being in relation with the land and with each other.
The Gabriola Commons is an experiment in shared responsibility and stewardship of a special landscape and a precious community resource – in a context of attention to fairness, inclusion and sustainability.
At once protected as it is and also adapting to community needs, the Gabriola Commons is indeed a dynamic and unique endeavour.