Amanda Smith hand feeds a chicken at Maples Discovery Gardens. File photo

Thefts force shutdown of Maple Discovery Gardens in Langley

Nonprofit community garden suffered $15,000 in losses over three months

A wave of thefts has forced the closure of the Maples Discovery Gardens Co-op in Langley Township on 200 Street near 77 Avenue.

A statement from the non-profit community garden said because of a wave of thefts, there will be no plot rentals and programming for this year.

“The board of directors will take this year to explore as to what direction the Maples will continue,” the announcement said.

“That was probably one of the hardest decisions we ever had to make,” said Maples garden director Amanda Smith.

Total losses are estimated at roughly $15,000 over December, January and February.

“This essentially crippled us,” Smith said. “It is no longer salvageable.”

She said the co-op only has liability insurance because comprehensive coverage that includes theft would have been too expensive.

In early December, two gardeners tending to their compost discovered the electrical panel had been stripped and cut leaving the garden without electricity and unable to run any irrigation to the garden areas.

“In January and February, almost every day, people were on the site taking things,” Smith told The Times.

“Everything from folding tables to water cans to hose fittings all around the garden, hand tools, power tools, they even stole plants” Smith said.

“They dug up most of our beautiful Japanese maples.”

The garden’s Nature’s Classroom program has moved locations for the year to the Langley Demonstration Garden on Fraser Highway.

Smith discussed the decision in an online video posted to the co-op Facebook page.

She said another factor in the decision to close was a pending application by the property owner to build a 20-storey tower of senior’s housing on the site.

While the builders have said they want to keep the garden, the final say will be up to the municipality, Smith sad.

“(The owners) can’t guarantee what the Township will come back and say.”

Smith said the garden may not re-open.

“There is a possibility (we won’t).”

The Gardens was incorporated as a non-profit cooperative in May of 2009.

The Maples mission statement is “to enable community members of all ages and abilities to learn about the connection between food, nutrition, gardening, and environmental sustainability in a welcoming and natural setting.”

It offered over 50 community garden plots (plus raised beds for access to people with physical challenges) for seasonal lease.

A greenhouse supported other community horticultural projects with table rentals available.

The garden also operated a community supported agriculture (CSA) program that generated 10 weeks of fresh, local, naturally grown vegetables and fruits produced at the garden without pesticides or herbicides of any kind, using only organic methods of mulching, fertilizing and planting.

The Maples offered education program for school children, who toured the facility and acquired some hands-on experience in smallscale, environmentally friendly gardening methods. It was home to a colony of bees tended on-site by members.

Over the last nine years, the Maples has been visited by over 1,000 elementary school age students, 400 gardeners, and over 200 ESL students .

It has been plagued by theft for years, much of it attributed to the squatters and homeless people in the undeveloped, heavily treed area next to the gardens.

“The police have come and they can only do so much,” Smith said.

READ MORE: Petty theft problem plagues co-op garden in Langley Township

READ MORE: Maples Discovery co-operative robbed of garden shed, tools

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Pictures of the damage done by repeated thefts were posted to the Facebook page of the Maples Discovery Gardens.

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