The cob oven in Centennial Park is expected to reopen this summer.
Peter de Verteuil, City of Duncan CAO, told council at its meeting on March 21 that the city’s public works department has hired a contractor to secure the cob oven with retractable fencing around it.
“Once the oven is secure, repairs to the oven will commence,” he said.
“Staff will now finalize an agreement with the Cowichan Green Community Society for the ongoing operation and maintenance of the cob oven.”
The cob oven is a “rocket stove”, a highly adaptable device that readily converts wood scraps, branches, and other plant material into immediately available heat for cooking, heating, and drying.
In 2012, Cowichan Community Kitchens applied for and received a grant-in-aid from the city for $2,500 for seed money to hire a project coordinator for the creation of the outdoor oven.
The city then invested another $7,500 towards the construction of the cob oven and the kitchen and garden program around it, and other funding was provided by the BC Arts Council, for an estimated amount of $22,500.
In 2013, an agreement was signed between Cowichan Community Kitchens, which works under the umbrella of Hiiye’yu Lelum, House of Friendship, and the city for the operation and maintenance of the facility, and citizens were allowed to apply for use of the oven for public or group lunch gatherings.
A staff report last year said the House of Friendship has fixed and maintained the cob oven to the best of their abilities while in operation.
But the report said that in 2020, the oven had not been used, and ongoing vandalism and drug paraphernalia had been mitigating factors in a re-evaluation of the commitment to the oven taken by the House of Friendship, resulting in a decision to recuse themselves from the agreement.
Council decided to initiate a Request for Expressions of Interest for a group or individual to assist with the future operation and maintenance of the cob oven, and the CGCS was the sole applicant.
Last July, the CGCS asked the city for up to $16,500 to help cover the restart costs of the oven, which would include repairs and enhanced security enhancements at the site, and staff had recommended it to council.
Council approved up to $13,000 for the repair and security costs for the oven.
Of that amount, $5,000 is coming from a Co-op Grant through the House of Friendship which has been approved, and the city has applied for a grant from the Canada Community Revitalization Fund for the remaining $8,000.
Coun. Carol Newington said at the meeting on March 21 that when she had tried to use the oven in the past, when it was in operation, she ran into insurance issues.
“Who will hold the insurance on the oven; the city or the CGCS?” she asked.
De Verteuil said once the agreement is finalized with the CGCS, clarity on insurance and other related issues will come back before council for consideration.