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Botanical society digs for new members

With the proposed botanical garden project put on hold, the Sunshine Coast Botanical Garden Society (SCBGS) is shifting its focus and announcing plans of a major membership drive.

With the proposed botanical garden project put on hold, the Sunshine Coast Botanical Garden Society (SCBGS) is shifting its focus and announcing plans of a major membership drive.

The SCBGS has been working for the past few months preparing an extensive business plan, two detailed grant applications and preliminary designs for the garden and support buildings at a site in Gibsons.

The society also applied for a $600,000 grant from the Softwood Industry Community Economic Adjustment Initiative (SI-CEAI).

This week, the society learned that the SI-CEAI funding application was turned down.

"This is disappointing news, and we will have to work harder to make the garden a reality," said society president Glenn Lewis. "It's particularly sad to see the Coast lose this opportunity for federal money, but a lot of positive things came out of the grant process. Obviously our plans will have to be revised, and it will take us longer to raise the funds needed."

This is why the need for a membership drive is now critical for the society.

Membership chair Karin Tigges said the society hopes to double its membership base by the end of April.

"We need increased grassroots support," Lewis said. "A botanical garden benefits the whole community, not just gardeners. The best way to show support now is to become a member."

Local residents, businesses and professionals have committed donations of cash and in-kind goods and services totaling $183,000 so far.

"We have been bowled over by the heartfelt support shown by many residents of Gibsons and the Coast," Lewis added. "The society has recently received charity status, so we will be issuing official receipts for taxation purposes for donations."

As for the botanical garden project, the society said the project is not dead, just on hold.

"We'll be looking to other sources for grant opportunities and funding sources," said society member Paulean MacHale. "We're now concentrating our efforts on the membership and fund-raising drive. We have to go back to the drawing board and re-work all our plans, so for now, the project is on hold."

The garden was proposed for 25 to 30 acres of Town of Gibsons property bordering Charman Creek, between Stewart Road and Shaw Road.

Controversy erupted two months ago over the project when several residents voiced concerns over the project location, parking and congestion in the area, noise problems and what they felt was a lack of communication on behalf of the society.

Residents packed a Town of Gibsons council meeting on Feb. 17 to voice their concerns before council.

Don Sanderson, who lives on Inglis Road nearby, and Eaglecrest Drive resident Gordon Collins represented concerned neighbours at that meeting. Sanderson reiterated points made in a Feb. 7 story in Coast Reporter that residents have no objections to a botanical garden, but they object to the area chosen for the project.

When reached for comment this week, Don's wife Shirley said, "We didn't like what they had planned for the garden - I suppose it's good news for us."

For its part, the society feels that a lot of misinformation and a petition sent by the Sandersons and concerned residents to the SI-CEAI may be reasons why the grant was denied.

"It is important for us now to explain our project better and keep the public in the loop," Lewis said. "The development process has many opportunities for public input, and we hope the enlarged membership will help us increase community participation."For more information about memberships and the society, check out or contact Lewis at 604-885-6142.