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Tristan Cleveland is an urban planner who has also worked in Montreal, Guyana and Venezuela. Cleveland grew up in the south shore of Nova Scotia and has been an advocate for sustainable planning in Halifax since 2012.

Tristan Cleveland: Putting a community garden on Quinpool Road a straight-up good idea

Metro Halifax columnist says if you’re looking for something to feel cynical about here, keep looking.

A man rides his bike past a line of shops along Quinpool Road.

Metro file photo

A man rides his bike past a line of shops along Quinpool Road.

Here’s a straight-up good idea. Quinpool is teaming up with Common Roots Urban Farm, a community garden, to put planters on the street full of food to be tended by local residents. Volunteers are going out on Tuesday to make it happen.

I love everything about this.

Quinpool needs more greenery. Common Roots needs more space for plots. Instead of using city space to grow decorative plants, they’re growing food. Instead of paying to have them tended, they’re giving people space to do what they want to do anyways, garden.

If you’re looking for something to feel cynical about, keep looking. The city has been completely supportive. Horticultural staff have set aside time to design the plant beds and train volunteers. The folks in charge of Right of Way gave permission without a hiccup. RBC plus two councillors, Shawn Cleary and Lindell Smith, pitched in funds. Someone had a good idea and then everyone said “yes.”

Is this Halifax? When I throw my hands up and imagine how things should work, this is what I picture. People are acting like their job is to help make good ideas a reality, and it’s wonderful. Listen everybody, this thing you’re doing, keep doing it.

And Quinpool needs this. On the one hand, this street has the fundamentals necessary to be one of the best destinations in the region. It’s located in the heart of some of our densest communities and is on good transit. The businesses are so diverse, you could date someone, rent an apartment, get married and raise a family without ever leaving.

On the other hand, the street feels too hostile for pedestrians. Traffic is fast and loud, the street lacks crosswalks, and there isn’t nearly enough greenery or flowers.

In 2009, Halifax was going to partner with the federal government on doing a major overhaul of the street, but it fell through. Well, enough waiting for other levels of government. The business association is doing the right thing by taking the reigns and doing what they can do themselves to make the street a better, more beautiful place.

The city should follow their lead by figuring out what we can afford on our own, and then making it happen, quickly. What the street needs is not rocket science. Slightly wider sidewalks in places, many more trees, flowers, and space for patios. I’m told a crosswalk at Monastery lane should finally be coming soon. Done well, Quinpool could become a wonderful place to walk on a sunny summer day.

Karla Nicholson, the business association’s general manager, told me she’s optimistic about the what Quinpool can become. When she pictures its future, she says, “you will feel like you can sit on a patio and enjoy a beautiful, peaceful streetscape.”

Planters full of attractive, healthy food is a solid start. “I’m very proud to be a part of it,” Nicholson says. “Hopefully it’s just the beginning of more things we can do.”


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