Restoration of Library Quad
The common recreational and circulation space in the quad in front of the McPherson Library was restored for community use this morning as university grounds crews removed by hand the plants, rocks, wood, dirt and wire installed by a small group of individuals on March 31. The plants retrieved from the site have been relocated to the underutilized areas of the existing campus community gardens where they may be replanted by students interested in on-campus community gardening.
The damage to the site caused by the "guerilla gardening" group will take some time to repair and remediate. As a result, the area has been reseeded with grass and will be fenced off until it is ready for use again by students and other university community members.
An investigation into the incident is ongoing.
In addition to the damage it caused, the group last week issued demands that the university allocate 25 acres of land for farming activities, and commit to an estimated $15-20 million in program, building, and operational expenditures over five years or face additional "action."
The demands seek to circumvent the established academic and land use planning processes on campus.
They also ignore the other processes currently underway that are examining ways to support food growing and sustainability initiatives on campus.
The university will continue to work with student organizations on campus to hold a public meeting at an appropriate time in the future to enable all interested members of the campus community to receive accurate information, provide their perspectives on sustainability, gardening and food issues on campus, and learn about the variety of initiatives underway.
Further "guerilla gardening" activities on campus March 31
On March 31 a group of about 35 individuals returned to a site in front of the McPherson Library and again removed sod, deposited dirt and dug in plants. The space is highly-used common recreational and circulation space for students and campus community members. There are community gardens set aside for student gardening in other parts of campus.
This activity was conducted by a group of individuals, comprising both student and off-campus members, which decided to damage university property and impose its views about the use of land on the entire 24,000-member university community. The university communicated that it is a violation of university policy and also a legal offence to dig up and damage university grounds.
"Guerilla gardening" activities in the quad March 24-25
The University of Victoria has had community gardens in place for 15 years. The communal space for students in the garden is currently underutilized.
However, on the afternoon of Wednesday, March 24 and without prior notice to or consultation with the university, a crowd estimated at 100-120 individuals did considerable damage to the grounds of the quadrangle in front of the McPherson Library by planting what it considered to be a garden.
In keeping with UVic's practice of moving quickly to deal with vandalism, university crews worked overnight to return the quadrangle to as near to its original condition as possible.
Background to the issues:
Community gardening and land use on campus
The university has supported community gardens on campus for 15 years and has no plans to end this support. The campus community garden has been, and continues to be, a fundamental part of this support.
The campus community garden club has made it clear that it is not part of the above activities and is not supporting them. It suggests that students who are interested in gardening make use of the underutilized communal space in its existing garden.
For the last three months, the university has been engaged in a constructive, collaborative planning process regarding the ongoing location of community gardens. Input has been sought and welcomed from the campus community. Planning for a new garden in the student family housing complex is well on its way.
The university has a consultative process for land use decisions, including gardening and landscaping. Individuals should work through this process and should not impose their own decisions about how university land should be used.
Damage to university property
Digging up and damaging university lands violates university policy and is also a civil and criminal offence. The cost to the university of these activities and of dealing with concerns about personal safety is substantial and growing, and diverts resources away from activities that are beneficial to students.
The views of students and others on planning for land uses on campus are welcome and can be provided through the Office of Campus Planning and Sustainability. The preparation of a property management plan to guide the use of the university’s Cedar Hill Corner parcel for the immediate future is underway, with a number of food-growing proposals from students and university community members under consideration. A draft plan is expected later this spring.
Food security and sustainability are issues on which the university has implemented a range of initiatives. Over the past several years, a number of buy local, fair-trade and organic food procedures and arrangements have been put in place for campus food outlets. A Food Services Advisory Committee that includes student, staff and faculty representatives is being developed.