The Roncesvalles Village BIA exists to improve business conditions for its members on Roncesvalles Avenue through street beautification, property maintenance, and marketing and promotions. BIAs are funded through levies via commercial property taxes of their members, who are geographically located within their catchment. BIA boards are volunteer business and property owners located within that BIAs boundaries.
Recently, there has been much discussion in the neighbourhood about the Roncesvalles Village garden beds. We recognize the public appeal for information regarding the status of the gardens given recent reports, however, the RVBIA wished to first explore all avenues of possible resolution in advance of publishing a statement.
Roncesvalles Village Gardens
At the start of the pandemic, a critical mass of RVBIA members requested a review of our approach to the gardens, looking for a refreshed appearance. This encompassed the 21 garden beds along Roncesvalles Avenue.
Subsequently, the RVBIA engaged a consultant for recommendations on soil remediation, plant selection with an emphasis on pollinators, perennials, shrubs and evergreens, as well as watering options and assistance with maintenance.
In January 2021, these findings were shared with the volunteer gardeners and discussions ensued about the garden beds for 2021 and moving forward.
In a meeting which included both parties – along with City Councillor Gord Perks, the following was established:
- businesses would have input on the appearance of the gardens, in partnership with the volunteers and a budget would be provided for the gardeners, based on square footage
- pollinators would continue to be the main focus with 60-70% of plant material
- volunteers would be involved in plant selection, implementation and maintenance
- work would be done to remediate soil, along with addressing water run-off
- watering assistance and garden maintenance, as a contingency of volunteers being unavailable
In March, a Request for Quote for the Roncesvalles Village garden beds, which included working with the volunteer gardeners and based on the above, was circulated. This effort was not successful; we were unable to find a company to co-manage the garden beds for 2021.
Subsequently, the volunteer gardeners were advised in April that no contract was being awarded this year and they would have the same control for the 2021 season as they had in previous seasons. They were invited to present budget requests for each garden, and it was planned that we would explore hiring a consultant to work with the work towards engaging a company to fulfill the RFQ for 2022.
Unfortunately, discussions became strained and in April the volunteer gardeners submitted a letter stating they would no longer be caring for the gardens effective immediately. Multiple attempts to bring the volunteer gardeners back to the project were unsuccessful. This necessitated moving forward with a new proposal which honoured the spirit of the gardens but did not include the gardeners.
Currently, many of the garden beds have had plants removed at the request of volunteer gardeners who wished to rehome some of their favoured plants.
It is likely that the pandemic contributed to miscommunication and the erosion of the relationship between the volunteer RVBIA board and committees and the volunteer gardeners. Conversations that usually happen on the street, or at our annual volunteer appreciation dinner, for example, were not possible given distancing and stay at home orders.
The RVBIA and its members sincerely appreciate all the volunteer gardeners who have donated their time and efforts for many years on Roncesvalles. It is our goal to repair that relationship by reorganizing this project and co-creating a strategy which they will endorse, thereby re-engaging their participation.