By Jennifer Blundon and Sofia Quijada
Jennifer Blundon and Sofia Quijada are members of Conservation Corps NL’s Green Team with the City of Mount Pearl. They spent their summer caring for the Forest Avenue Community Garden and, along the way, they also learned about the history of the garden and Forest Avenue area. Today, the community garden sits on land that was once a residential neighbourhood. The area was declared a flood zone in 1998 and many residents relocated. Continue reading to learn about how the City of Mount Pearl developed the garden and the historically significant T’railway adjacent to the garden.
If you are a Mount Pearl resident, you may be familiar with Forest Avenue, a quaint little road located between Park Place Community Center, Park Avenue and the Waterford River. Unbeknownst to most, this snake-like street is a prime example of Mount Pearl’s rich culture and vibrant sense of community. Many residents have resided in this neighbourhood bordering the Waterford River for over 60 years. We read and heard stories about how as children, Mount Pearl’s residents would swim in Twin Falls, row up the river, and skate and play hockey on the river in the winter.
The Waterford Valley Linear Trail starts at Forest Avenue and follows the river for 1 km. The Rotary Club of Waterford Valley upgraded this trail in 2016. The same trail that used to be a railroad leads up to Manuels River and down to Bowring Park also cuts through Forest Avenue. As members of the Green Team caring for the Forest Avenue Community Garden this summer, we learned about the history and heritage of the neighbourhood from fellow gardeners and residents. Our goal is pass on our newly found appreciation for this special place in Mount Pearl.
From Neighborhood to Flood Zone
In the 20th century, the Waterford River visibly changed from wide and unobstructed to narrow with a stronger current. In the 1990s, studies were conducted examining the frequent flooding of the land around the river valley. Under the Climate Change Adaptation Initiative, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador determined that updated flood risk mapping for the Waterford River was required to accurately predict the long‐term effects of climate change on the Waterford River area. Climate change includes both an increase in precipitation and sea level rise. The previous flood risk study for the Waterford River took place in 1998. At the time, climate change was not considered a factor, but the area was officially declared a flood zone. Unfortunately for Forest Avenue residents, this meant that their homes were at risk of severe flooding.
The river has flooded its banks many times over the last century and has washed out several poorly constructed bridges. In the last 20 years, there have been three significant floods that have occurred on Forest Avenue. The most severe occurred during hurricane Igor in 2010.
Following Hurricane Igor, several residents of Forest Avenue petitioned the Federal Government for funding for the relocation of their homes away from the flood zone. Since its approval, five of the seven families living within the flood zone on Forest Avenue opted to relocate. Their former properties are now owned City of Mount Pearl.
The bridge adjacent to the Forest Avenue Community Garden connects Forest Avenue to Topsail Road. The bridge is considered a historically significant place in Mount Pearl because it was a very important thoroughfare in the city’s development.
In 2005, the City of Mount Pearl collaborated with Heritage NL to implement the Historic Places Initiative, a project that would be the City’s first heritage structure inventory. Laurie MClean, a historic places researcher, compiled the report on the City’s historic places and suggested that the bridge be included among these heritage structures because it was a well-traveled route in the city. The bridge was used by Mount Pearl residents looking for a quicker route to Topsail Road. The report also suggests the area warrants further research, possibly including archaeological investigations. It was advised that the City should install proper signage to showcase the bridge’s importance.
A New Life: The Forest Avenue Community Garden
In 2016, a community garden was established in the flood zone on Forest Avenue as part of an effort to revitalize this former residential property. This cul-de-sac was an ideal place for a community garden because the water mains from the former houses provided an easily accessible source of water for gardeners. A hose was set up, and beds were built with support from Conservation Corps Green Team Program. The residents of the City of Mount Pearl were invited to sign up for a plot at city hall. With several expansions over the years, there are currently approximately 23 beds in the garden.
Having a community garden encourages residents to grow their own food. The City of Mount Pearl supports its residents in the establishment of local food security, and vegetable gardening can be a great way to have a healthy food source. The main goal of community gardening is to provide a gardening space for people who normally would not have access to this type of outdoor space. We think that the Forest Avenue Community Garden should expand because it provides an enjoyable activity for residents and can help people become more food secure as they learn how to grow their own herbs, fruits and vegetables.