June 24, 2008

Encouraging words from David Tracey.

I've recently been in contact with Vancouver Guerrilla Gardening advocate David Tracey. David is the author of "Guerrilla Gardening; A Manualfesto" put out by New Society Publishers (look under 'Cutting Hedge Links for more info). I basically contacted him for any advice he might have regarding the asking permission or not. Here is an excerpt from his reply. (David, I hope you don't mind):

"First and foremost: congratulations. I've heard from a number of people who say they're keen to do guerrilla gardening, but I'm always most encouraged whenever someone actually does it. Sounds like your group is off to a great start. Getting the various support inputs you mentioned can only help.

On your question...I wish I knew what to tell you. I wouldn't presume to know enough from afar to make any kind of intelligent suggestion. Even in a local case, the circumstances are always so particular that there's no one answer that will fit all.

In general terms, though, I wonder sometimes if I wasn't a bit too supportive in the book of the asking permission part. (I just had a talk with a cop here yesterday over a community garden project some folks are trying to get going, with the rights to the land still in negotiation...and she was the one who came up first with 'It's better to ask for forgiveness than permission.') We probably tend to do more of it here in Vancouver than some places because there's been general acceptance of the idea at various political levels. But that doesn't mean we haven't gotten burned by asking first -- I'm still reeling from the one Park Board manager who stopped our solar-powered-wetland-habit-reclamation projection purely out of spite.

Like everything, it all depends. Something like 600 trees by a highway sounds like an idea politicians (and the bureaucrats they're supposed to manage) could well get behind, and even provide funds that could help you expand. On the other hand you could get stuck with some dolt who gets determined to keep the land barren for whatever weird reason.

I think in the end you already have the right approach -- to look at the desired result and then work backwards. If you know already you can pull off the 600 trees, you might well go ahead and do it, with a sizeable crew so it's finished long before anyone can complain. Then you could call attention to it, maybe even use the publicity to attract more people and resources for the next campaign.

One important thing to think about is the after-care. Here on the coast we have a summer drought that makes new trees particularly vulnerable. Without irrigation anything that small is pretty much destined to die in our climate. One advantage to going the official route in your case could be the authorities agreeing to do the watering or set up irrigation or whatever works."

- David Tracey in an email regarding Guerrilla Gardening in Edmonton.

If you'd like to find a link to David's most fantastic book "Guerrilla Gardening; A Manualfesto' you can find a link posted in our 'Cutting Hedge Links" section on the right. David's book is an excellent, must read for any would be GUerrilla Gardener, highly recommended.