By Rizwana Shaikh, Federation of Calgary Communities
What happens when you have an unused tennis court that cannot be repaired? You turn it into a beautiful community garden!
The Dover Community Association successfully transformed their unused tennis court into the Twin Views Communal Garden, featuring raised beds and fresh produce for residents.
The project started in 2012 when the community association asked residents what they wanted to do with the unused space after it was determined that it could not be repaired due to costs. After the decision was made, Catherine Taylor, chair of the Garden Committee, gathered other gardeners and began work to convert the tennis courts into a garden.
The garden has between 20 to 25 raised beds for growing food and a section which features native plants and trees. “It was a collaborative venture between the Parks Foundation Calgary and the Dover Community Association,” explains Taylor.
There is a core group of 12 volunteers who help in the garden, but other residents drop by and pitch in from time to time. Students from local schools also engage in the green space by planting seeds, painting garbage bins and building benches to donate for the garden.
“Every year we’re getting bigger and better, kind of like a plant,” says Taylor, adding that she hopes to keep building the garden into a space for the community to gather by hosting various events throughout the year, such as Neighbour Day.
Karen Begg, volunteer at the Dover Community Association, remembers how excited the volunteers were once the project was approved and they began work in the garden space. A wooden mural was one of the first projects to take place in the space.
“[The tennis courts have] been locked to the public for quite a number of years’, so to re-utilize the space for something productive as well as a meeting area for the residents was really exciting,” says Begg.
The produce that grows in the garden is free for volunteers or those passing by to take home and use in their cooking. Leftovers are also donated to various people and organizations, such as the Alex Community Food Centre.
“This is a truly communal garden, everybody looks after everything, it’s a win-win situation,” says Scott Beaton, one of the pioneer volunteers in the garden.
Beaton says that neighbours enjoy the space with each other and meet new neighbours that they otherwise might not have. Children from the community even utilize the space and learn more about gardening through some outdoor classes and an after-school program that also uses the space.
In 2018, Begg gathered a group of nine community volunteers for a beautification project in the garden, covering the back of the wooden mural with all weather plastic plants.
The funding for the project, which was through the Calgary Community Social Work Program, only covered four of the eight panels needed for the project. So Begg rallied her neighbours and friends, asking for their bottles or small donations, and matched the funding for the project.
It took an hour and a half for the volunteers to complete the project on an evening in August 2018.
“Its more representational of our garden, I think it adds some beauty to our garden,” says Begg.
With the help of dedicated volunteers, the Dover Community Association has successfully turned the tennis courts into a thriving community hub!