The original Steering Committee mandated to “birth” the Gabriola Commons has blossomed into a number of committees and teams exploring issues ranging from community ownership and financial security to farm management and infrastructure needs. Careful steady progress is leading to a sense of mounting excitement on all levels:
- A non-profit society, the Gabriola Commons Foundation, (CGF) was incorporated with the mandate to hold the land in trust in perpetuity for the community of Gabriola Island. Its immediate goal is to fund-raise toward full mortgage-free ownership of the 26.5 acre property. Charitable status has been granted. In the interim, the community’s support of a monthly donors drive has bought precious time! Thank you to all who responded so generously!
- A memorandum of understanding on the trans-fer of ownership has been signed between the GCF and AGES (whose gift of their equity in the property has made the Commons possible). The moment of transfer to full community ownership is drawing near!
- A “commons” covenant is being written, to be held by TLC The Land Conservancy. This will preserve the vision of the Commons through protection of an ecological reserve, recognition of the working agricultural landscape and preservation of our community cultural values.The Gabriola Commons Charter will be enshrined in the covenant.
- As part of the work on the covenant, a “Baseline Report” is being com-piled, with community involvement through seasonal photo-scans of the whole property.
Regulatory issues are progressing through the relevant channels: The Agricultural Land Commission will be assessing our second “Progress Report on our Agricultural Path”, before giving final approval to all potential projects described in our “Land Use Proposal” of January 2006. An application to the Islands Trust for a Land-use bylaw amendment – Phase 1 is undergoing planning staff study, with a public hearing as a next step.
- Approval of the proposed land uses by the Islands Trust will permit us to engage in renovations of the existing buildings, particularly the goat barn, the cheese plant, and the workshop to permit community use of the facilities. The “Sharing the Commons” Team is exploring how best to achieve full collaboration with the community on potential projects.
- The Gabriola Commons Charter emphasizes the importance of sustainability as we approach community projects on the Commons. The Infrastructure Team is mandated to plan sustainably for a wide range of needs, from the Constructed Wetland required by expanded bathroom facilities to building and renovating with alter-native energies and green technologies in mind.
- The Farm Management Team was one of the first action teams in the early days of the Commons. After two years, an amazing trans-formation has taken place on the land, with the creation of:
- a community garden.
This is shared with PHC and includes the Dragon’s garden for seniors and Aurora garden for home-schooled children. Last summer saw a number of small plots allocated to committed gardeners as part of an ex-periment in land use. This was remarkably successful, bringing a constant smiling community presence to the Commons.
- an “experimental” garden
Filled this last summer with 19 varieties of heritage potatoes, this garden is intended to furnish Commons events with fresh vegetables and berries as well as carry on research. (We’re trying peanuts next!)
- a potato and squash co-op
Down in the southeast quadrant near Redwood Road, this will become next year a community allot-ment garden project, with space for 32 large plots.
- two orchards planted in 2007
Plums, almonds and hazelnuts (plus one fig and one walnut tree) circle the lawn to the south of the house. The other orchard, of apples and pears, lies further south in the centre of the property.
- a blueberry project of 120 plants
This has just been completed as an extension of the apple orchard.
- Future projects include
sowing grains such as Red Fyfe Wheat, and scything hay in the shallow soil of the grassland.
- a community garden.
- Finally the desire to inform and engage the Community led to the creation of three teams: Communications, Volunteer Coordination, and Special Events Planning (the latter involved in seasonal celebrations includ-ing, for the third year, the Fall Fair at the Commons.