An unfortunate vandalism spree won’t dampen the spirits of Calgary community gardeners

The Chaparral community garden has seen an increase in vandalism this summer

By Leanne Murray | August 6, 2022 |5:00 am

This community garden has brought life to the Chaparral neighbourhood for the past 10 years.

Photo: Submitted

It’s hard to remain positive when something you love is damaged.

But that’s Jolene Ottosen’s attitude despite a string of vandalism incidents at the Chaparral community garden.

Ottosen is part of the garden committee and helped build it 10 years ago. Minor vandalism tends to happen every once in a while — some vegetables will be pulled up or kicked around.

In fact, Ottosen can think of only two or three incidents since the garden opened where more moderate damage was done.

However, things have escalated this year.

The garden shed doors have been kicked in four times in recent weeks.

Unfortunate destruction

Ottosen says numerous plants have been destroyed and the garden shed has been broken into four times in recent weeks.

“They never steal anything from it, it’s just been kicked in,” she says, adding the destruction is unfortunate and disheartening.

In the first incident in late June, more than 100 cloves of garlic that Ottosen planted in the fall were all chopped down.

“The tops of them were all just sliced off,” she says, adding they had been thriving and were about a foot and a half tall.

“I know it’s just garlic, but you put a lot of effort into it.”

The wood around Ottosen’s plot was also broken and needed to be rebuilt.

“It looked like someone had jumped or done something because the box around it was completely broken on two sides and kind of laying in disarray,” she says.

A string of vandalism

Three more times in July, gardeners found their plot fences damaged, plants cut down, and even the little library on site was damaged.

“It was just very destructive and frustrating because it was just senseless,” Ottosen says, adding the vandalism feels planned and targeted and she’s worried it will deter new gardeners.

“It’s disappointing. It’s frustrating.”

Several plants have been destroyed.

Chaparral community members have been discussing potential evening patrols of the garden to keep a closer eye out, and there are plans to meet with a community resource officer.

Ottosen says they are looking at solar lighting options, grant funding, and the garden committee is also in talks with the city to try to come up with other solutions, which may include installing a lockable fence.

“The last thing we want to do is fence it off. But then, on the other hand, no one’s going to want to garden here if it just keeps being destroyed,” Ottosen says.

But she’s determined to forge ahead with a positive attitude.

Focusing on the positive

“I don’t think there’s ill will towards our community garden. People love it. There’s so much more to it than the vandalism,” Ottosen says.

Over the past decade, Ottosen has seen the community come together for the garden in a way she had only experienced in small towns growing up.

She says people from all walks of life rent garden plots. Some are used by local community groups and others are used to grow food bank donations.

“Every time I am at the garden I also see and talk with many visitors, families using the garden as a space to teach their children about where food comes from, seniors who might be missing the gardens and yards from their past, or teens who just like to hang out on our benches,” Ottosen wrote in a post on the Chaparral Community Association Facebook page.

“We love these visits because our garden is for everyone to enjoy.”

The vandalism incidents have been reported to Calgary police and anyone with information is urged to contact them.

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Leanne Murray

Leanne is a Calgary Citizen reporter.

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