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Loss of Fort Calgary garden of Calgary sows seeds of dissent

The area councillor for Fort Calgary says she has concerns about the historic site’s removal of a garden that once produced food for those in need.

Coun. Druh Farrell said she heard about the demolition of the vegetable garden when word got around on Twitter.

Fort Calgary is undergoing an expansion of its interpretive centre in the next few years

“I looked up the setup development permit drawings on their expansion and the garden remains in those drawings,” said Farrell.

She said she’ll be looking into whether or not the garden can be changed without some consultation.

“I’m just disappointed they didn’t recognize the intrinsic value of the garden and consult with the community and at least given them the heads up.”

However Brittany Brander, marketing and communications manager with Fort Calgary, said the garden was never a “community garden,” as some on Twitter were characterizing it.

Instead, she said it was always run by staff at the fort with some assistance from volunteers. She said the annual cost to operate the garden was around $75,000.

Brander said the garden isn’t going away.

“We are going through a museum expansion and renovation project and the garden right now doesn’t offer us a lot of opportunity to provide educational programming or to connect people to the land on which we are situated in meaningful ways,” she said.

She said the garden will be replanted with native plants in the next couple of years.

“We’ll have more opportunity to create educational programing and allow groups to go out there and learn about native species.”

Mieka West, a resident of Inglewood, said the garden was already educational. She said she’d stop there with her son and go inside to watch the volunteers working – usually without paying admission to the museum.

West said workers used traditional tools, no pesticides or unnatural fertilizers, and tried to do things as the pioneers would have.

“In a lot of other places a garden such as this – something that pays tribute to the roots of Canada – this would be championed by a lot of authorities,” said West. “For some reason we just decide it’s only plants and you can just go to Home Depot and get another plant.

She’s laying the blame for the loss of the garden on leadership at the historic site, as well as with the board of directors.