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The Lower Mainland is a temperate rain forest. It is fecund. Things grow here.
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While getting rained on the other day it got me thinking how odd it was that there’s no concerted civic effort to capitalize on all of this free growth and promote local city neighbourhoods as the beautiful forests that they are. So much of the ‘beauty of Vancouver’ tourism themes focus on the backdrop of mountains to the north, a few preserved forests and the sea beyond.
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Not too shabby, but not the whole picture
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These are incredible and rare for any city, but neighbourhoods in Vancouver, New Westminster, Langley, Surrey, et. al. are no slouches, either. Why shouldn’t people take advantage of all this marvelous fecundity and promote their Cities Beautiful with competitive – or at least coordinated – gardening? This is a nice one:
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Nitobe
Nitobe Memorial Garden, UBC
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Before you audibly snort, consider the advantages of urban gardens. They provide natural drainage and local wildlife refuge, usually increase property values, and just brighten the damn place up. They’re work, sure, but it pays you back. Imagine entire neighbourhoods with hundreds of idiosyncratic patches of lush, vivid flora spilling out in all directions. Now imagine this neighbourhood garden is so amazing that it attracts kindly, courteous, wealthy visitors from all over the world; entire garden clubs from Hertfordshire and La Plata who’ve come halfway around the world because of Sapperton‘s reputation as home to the most beautiful urban gardens on the West Coast.
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These are visitors you want. It’s a known fact that none of the Stanley Cup rioters was an active member of a garden club. Not one. I checked.
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For very little money, the City of Buffalo has done exactly that. For twenty years it has hosted North America’s largest citywide Garden Walk each July. If there’s a place that can do something for very little money, it is Buffalo. Covering ten neighbourhoods and hundreds of properties, garden enthusiasts flock to that city en masse to gawk and coo over other people’s lawns and gardens. These people come back, don’t cause trouble, tell their friends, and spend lots of money. Yeay!
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Somebody’s house
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garden walk 3
Somebody else’s house
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A third house
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Granted, Buffalo needs the tourist dollars a little more than Vancouver, but the point is that this good time is created by thousands of separate individuals working together to achieve a really chill city-wide event that benefits everyone. It strikes me as the sort of thing that any city in the Lower Mainland could benefit from. Vancouver could do with fewer frenzied tourists aiming to score some quick weed and race up to Whistler before the highway closes. Other towns usually overlooked by the city’s overly-focused tourists could benefit from receiving some quiet, friendly, ambling visitors for one or two weekends a year – visitors who’ve come to say hello and complement you on your hard work and lovely home.
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It’s easier said than done, and I’m sure everyone and their mother can conjure up an excuse not to participate (I can); but an organized garden walk is cheap, beneficial, and needs little help from nature or City Hall. Things grow like crazy here, and social inertia can be overcome. Why not take advantage? I’m looking right at you, Shaughnessy.