Accomplished gardener frustrated with notice from town’s bylaw department

The Town of Sylvan Lake municipal bylaw department does not allow organic gardens in Sylvan Lake.

Dear Editor,

The Town of Sylvan Lake municipal bylaw department does not allow organic gardens in Sylvan Lake. Vegetable gardens that is, or maybe it is just the mulch that they have issues with. No one but the officer in question can answer me and he has been less than helpful with a kind of “do it or else” reply to my questions.

I guess when I got the yellow letter from the bylaw officer I must have gone into shock a bit, because, you see, I volunteer to teach gardening to the public at our local “Eco Loco” events and the “growing green neighbors” dinners.

The town has asked me to do this, because I do this in my yard. Not only do I have 235 varieties and species of edible and medicinal plants growing organically in my yard, I have a community garden in the front yard next to the sidewalk. So I tried to find out what to do. After 17 messages and calls with very few answers or returned calls I have pretty much been told nothing.

So after cleaning up in my back alley area, because yes it has been a long summer and yes I really should have put the canoe back long before now and that part was justified. In fact I have done all that was asked except to remove my mulch, and I can’t because if I do I will be in violation of another law that has to do with invasive weeds.

So if I am forced to get rid of the mulch, then I will be in violation of another bylaw, so the garden will have to go to grass. We had an empty lot on our street for years — there were complaints about the invasive weeds yet the town did nothing for years and so as a result we are infested with Canada thistle, sow thistle, etc.

I had the town’s invasive weed specialist come and look at my yard and apparently I am using best practices to deal with my weeds and the added bonuses of not having to use anywhere near as much water, and the improvement of the tilth of the soil are just good for the whole garden. She is not sure what the to do is all about.

Then when I phoned the Parks and Recreation department and said that I would no longer volunteer for them, they asked why and I told them that I would not put anyone else through what the town bylaw office was putting me through, they too could not figure out what I was doing wrong. They came and inspected my yard, and brought public works with them for a tour of my yard — they cannot figure out the problem with the mulch.

The mayor has been called and he said he would inspect the garden as well, and here’s the kicker, after all these inspections, and phone calls and letters from neighbours saying they like the garden, I have been told there is nothing any of these people including our mayor can do to help me.

Those rumours are true — bylaw is actually God in Sylvan Lake and there is no room in this particular God’s world for an organic vegetable garden. Food, not lawns, has no place in Sylvan Lake. Which is almost funny when you consider the number of meetings these same people drag me to so that we can develop a local food and food security policy. I am usually the only one present not getting paid to attend, and usually the only one that actually does live this way.

So I will have to get rid of my garden, cancel my business plans for my handcrafted herbal products and paradise garden design, explain to the 13 kids on our street that the town does not like gardens so no more pumpkins, tulips, or lily buds, and under the circumstances seriously consider leaving a town that does not support sustainable, organic lifestyles, or gardens.

Janet Schultz,

Sylvan Lake


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