Welcome to Sycamore Commons!
Located within the traditional territory of the Tla’Amin First Nation, Sycamore Commons is a community permaculture partnership taking place on the grounds of St. David’s and St. Paul’s Anglican church in Townsite, Powell River.
The vision of Sycamore Commons is to create an abundance of fresh healthy food, biodiversity, beauty, learning and social connection available freely to all. By transforming the church grounds through permaculture, we are rooting ourselves more deeply in the ecology and the community of this place.
Through Sycamore Commons we are also responding to our fifth mark of mission and baptismal vow which asks us,
“Will you strive to safeguard the integrity of God’s creation,
and respect, sustain and renew the life of the Earth?”
Sycamore Commons began in the fall of 2011 when Powell River permaculturalists Erin Innes and Ron Berezan created an agreement with the parish council of St. D&P to teach a full 80 hour permaculture design course (PDC) in 2012 out of the church hall. This was followed up by a second PDC in 2013.
Students of both courses worked with parish members and folks living in the local community to develop an overall vision and design for the transformation of the church lands. A partnership was also created with two local Powell River organizations: Skookoum Food Provisioners Cooperative and Transition Town Powell River.
Once designs were in place, the work of physical transformation begun. Students and parishoners were joined by many, many community members over several years in volunteer work bees which have been, and continue to be, our main structure for developing and maintaining Sycamore Commons. These work bees accomplish not only tremendous physical developments but they are also opportunities for learning, community building and fun!
The transformation of tired lawns into thriving and diverse eco-systems of trees, shrubs, perennials and ground covers providing food and medicine for people and wildlife has been an exciting journey. And that journey continues to unfold! Since its inception, Sycamore Commons has hosted countless workshops, courses, student groups, special events and outdoor liturgies at the site. New design elements continue to be implemented and new folks are drawn into the life of this dynamic space.
On-Site at Sycamore Commons
Sitting on less than half an acre, Sycamore Commons includes a diverse number of elements all linked together in functional and mutually supportive ways. The key elements include:
- “Food Forests” – containing over 100 species of perennial trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants providing a diversity of fruits, berries, nuts, herbs, flowers and medicinal plants arranged together in “guilds” that are mutually beneficial. We also have an espalier of 8 fruit trees creating a natural fence along the parking lot edge of the property.
- Vegetable Gardens – these productive beds were developed on a gravel slope using special techniques such as hugelkultur, terracing and mulch pits.
- Community Composting Centre – where the church and neighbouring residents and businesses can bring their compostables and have them transformed into soil!
- Rain Water Collection – from our rooftops into three large barrels of up to 6000 litres each.
- Rain Water Ponds – that provide for beauty and biodiversity while ensuring additional water storage for our gardens
- Cob Bench and Bus Stop Shelter – built from a mixture of sand, straw and clay, this timeless natural building technique provides our neighbours with shelter from the rain as they wait for the bus.
- Community Labyrinth – built from local stone and reclaimed bricks, the labyrinth is a place for prayer and meditation as well as for social events, liturgies and workshops. Read more about this labyrinth below.
- Peace Pole – with the words “May peace prevail on earth” written in several languages including Tla’Amin. This pole is part of the international peace pole movement.
- Reconciliation Carving – created from the stump of a dying cypress tree by Helstuk carver Ivan Rosypskye and many other volunteers. This gorgeous work of art has deep significance for our commitment to work towards reconciliation with the Tla’Amin nation. See here for the short documentary Carving Reconciliation about this project and below for a full description of the carving and the artist..
Sycamore Commons is grounded in the ethics and principles of permaculture design. Permaculture is a global movement that began in Australia in the late 1970’s and has now spread throughout the world. It draws its inspiration from ecological sciences, indigenous wisdom, systems theory, the organic farming and natural building movements.
Permaculture offers tools and resources to help us create ecological designs for meeting our material needs (food, water, energy, housing, medicine, etc) and nonmaterial (beauty, recreation, social connection, sense of place, spiritual nourishment, etc) in sustainable and regenerative ways. Together we learn how to create abundance for ourselves and for the human and non-human other with whom we share this place.
The three ethical principles of permaculture are:
- Care of the Earth
- Care of People
- Sharing the Surplus
We strive to have the design, the development and the on-going functioning of Sycamore Commons reflect these three ethical principles. We are also aware that the biblical ethics of peace, justice and the integrity of creation fit very well with the three ethics of permaculture design.
All people are welcome to share in the abundance of Sycamore Commons. We do not have the site divided up into individual garden plots as many community gardens do. Rather, we prefer to nurture the idea of the commons – those who are able share in the work and nurturing of the site and those who need can harvest from the gardens whatever they require, no questions asked!
Activities at Sycamore Commons
There are many activities throughout the year at Sycamore Commons open to all.
- Workshops and Courses – on a range of gardening, permaculture, food preserving, sustainable living, ecological restoration and community building themes. Some of these events are offered through partnerships with local groups like The Urban Homesteading Boot Camp and Skookum Food Provisioners Cooperative. Please let us know if you have a workshop you would like to offer!
- Site Tours and Visits – for student groups, visitors to Powell River, seniors and youth groups, and others. Get in touch and we will be happy to show you around!
- Celebrations and Special Events – like our annual Solar Cooking Potluck in September, or Food Swap in October, Solstice celebrations and other special gatherings. In May of 2017 we hosted the first wedding on the labyrinth at Sycamore Commons.
- Work-bees – many hands make light work and much lightheartedness! Typically four times per year, these events bring folks together to learn, contribute and build community together. (Usually accompanied by an epic potluck!)
- Outdoor Liturgies – several times per year we gather from a diverse group of faith communities, or no faith tradition at all to share prayers, songs, readings and ritual honoring the Holy in Creation and pledging ourselves to continue the work of social and ecological justice and reconciliation. All are welcome.
See below for a power point presentation made by Rev. Ron Berezan and Rev. Paula Sampson at the 2018 Ecology Seminar of the North American Academy of Liturgy: Take it Outside – Permaculture Practise and Ecological Liturgy as Partners in Design. This presentation highlights the connection between liturgy and the work of Sycamore Commons.
"To garden is to participate in the deepest mysteries of the universe."
Funding and Support
This project has been developed through the generosity of many parish and community members sharing their labour, their vision, their surplus plants and their imaginations. Over the years, we have also received monetary support from First Credit Union in Powell River and from the Care and Share program of the Anglican Diocese of New Westminster.
More Information or to Get Involved
You are welcome to share in the life of this community permaculture project in any way that works for you. For more information, please contact Rev. Ron Berezan [email protected] (click here for Ron's website) or Erin Innes [email protected] You can also visit www.permaculturepowellriver.ca.