2023 marked a major growth spurt for the Altona Community Garden.

The highlight of the year was the completion of a new commons area, including a timber frame pavilion and washroom facility.  

The pavilion and surrounding gardens are intended to be community spaces.

"A welcoming space," says spokesperson Jack Heppner. "So even if you're not a gardener, you're welcome to come to the garden, walk around the garden, look at the plots, and spend time at the pavilion or in park area in front of the pavilion. It's a relaxing place. People like to de-stress there, right? Meet new people."

One of the goals of the pavilion area has been to create community.

"Among the gardeners first of all, because they come from so many different places around the world," said Heppner. "Here you can sit down on a bench or a table and have some coffee or something and and just get to know each other."

2023 was a bumper year for Altona Community Garden.

This summer the number of available plots grew to 140 utilized by 97 families, 43 per cent of which were newcomers. 

In September, community members celebrated the grand opening of the pavilion and washroom facility sprouting from the center of the new commons area.

"The weather was wonderful. Wasn't too cold. It wasn't windy, it was sunny," recalls Heppner. "Co-op served 250 hot dogs. So we're thinking 200 people [showed up]. I think we had Alterlimits music group playing half an hour before and half an hour after, which created kind of a festive atmosphere and a lot of people appreciated that. And some very affirming words from the dignitaries that we had there - the mayor and all the other people that spoke. Even after that we've had a lot of people come to us affirming what we're doing. All around it was a good experience. "

The west side of the pavilion features a sunburst art piece, designed by James Friesen with Timber Creek Timber Frame.

Heppner enjoyed watching the project come together.

"It had been a couple of years since we started it. We always thought everything would work faster, we would have it done by last year. But it always takes longer than you think. Just to see things coming up and finishing up. Right in spring, James [Friesen] put up the sunburst design. He had built it all winter and [had it] ready to go and spring. That created a lot of buzz, like, what is that? Where did that come from? It was from James’ artistic mind. He says, you got to have something on that wall. You can't just have a blank wall with washrooms behind it. It's got to be something beautiful."

In his year-end report, Heppner highlights other work completed this summer, including the expansion of the garden by 30 plots to meet demand, installation of an additional water tank, completion of four more accessible plots, developing a park-like entrance to the pavilion and planting a variety of perennial flowers and shrubs. 

On the financial side, an additional $9500 was raised to cover costs, $3000 of which was donated at the grand opening.

Altona Community Action Network developed a vision for the area when it took over management of the community garden in 2017.

(Check out the gallery of photos below by Otto Braun)

~With files from Candace Derksen~

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