History of the Garden

History of Coquitlam River Community Garden Society

A new name for some old roots

In the summer of 2023, Colony Farm Regional Park became ƛ̓éxətəm (tla-hut-um) Regional Park, and our garden became Coquitlam River Community Garden. It’s a new name, but member gardeners have been cultivating, enhancing and building community in the garden for over 25 years.

Timeline of the park

1904; the BC Government purchased 1,000 acres of land on the western bank of the Coquitlam River, at the confluence of the Fraser river, as the site for a new hospital for the mentally ill.

Between 1905 and 1910, over 180 hectares of this low lying flood plain were cleared, ditched and drained. Once the land was cleared, dikes were constructed, drainage tiles were installed and state of-the-art farm buildings were constructed.

1910: Colony Farm officially opened.

By 1911, Colony Farm was thriving. At the Dominion Fair in Regina in July 1911, Colony Farm won more than 20 prizes, a tradition that would continue into the 1980s with multiple awards at the Pacific National Exhibition’s annual agricultural competitions.

1918; the Farm was expanded with the purchase of the Wilson property on the east side of the Coquitlam River.

By the 1920s, Colony Farm was recognized as one of the finest farming operations in Western Canada. Crops in the fields included grain, pumpkin, turnips, celery, onions, beets, rhubarb, lettuce and corn. Various vegetables as well as pears, peaches, apples and apricots were preserved in the cannery.
Colony Farm remained a thriving farming operation into the 1940s.

1946: In December one of the milkers who worked at Colony Farm set a series of fires. A number of buildings burned as a result of the arson, including the grand Clydesdale arena.

1983: Colony Farm ceased operations.

1989: the Burke Mountain Naturalists initiated a public campaign to have the land protected.

1996: Colony Farm was transferred by the Province to the GVRD (now called Metro Vancouver) to be managed as a regional park. Metro Vancouver manages the park in accordance with the Colony Farm Land Use Plan which designates specific areas for agriculture, wildlife and integrated management.
The park protects a variety of ecosystem types including the largest old-field habitat in the North-East sector. These ecosystems provide habitat for a wide range of animals, including invertebrates, mammals, amphibians, fish, forest and grassland birds and birds or prey. During the winter months large numbers of Great Blue Herons, a species at risk, forage in the fields at Colony Farm. By late March, these herons initiate nesting in a heronry at the confluence of the Coquitlam and Fraser River, which has been protected as a Wildlife Management Area since 1994.

1998: Colony Farm Community Gardens Society formed; begins planning, developing and gardening on 7 acre site.

2023: Colony Farm Community Gardens Society members vote unanimously to change the name of their garden to Coquitlam River Community Garden Society.

The park is a popular spot for nature photography, bird watching, walking, cycling and community gardening.

New estuarial wetlands, streams and ponds habitats have been constructed by DFO and others as habitat conservation projects on portions of the old farm lands. Drainage control and vegetation improvements for the former Sheep Paddock area along the Lougheed Highway (Phases 1 & 2) and the Wilson Farm projects led by Metro Vancouver and Transportation Investment Corporation have created habitats that support fish, turtles, frogs and other aquatic species. Chinook and Coho salmon fry have been seen in these areas.

Sources
RIVERVIEW HOSPITAL: A Legacy of Care & Compassion (Rev. ed.). Published by British Columbia Mental Health and Addiction Services Copyright 2010
ISBN 978-0-9812144-1-2
BC Provincial Archive
Coquitlam 100 Years: Reflections of the Past, Coquitlam Public Library, 1990

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