A new kind of community gathering place is now open in the Leighton Dillman Park section of the Dartmouth Common.
A first of its kind in the province, the Park Avenue Community Oven had its first real fire on Sept. 22.
"We had a wonderful all-day cookout," said Lorrie Rand, a member of the citizens group who has worked on the oven project.
Rand said she first became interested in community ovens while living in Toronto.
"I saw how these ovens were great at enticing community gatherings for adults in parks. Children already love to come to parks and play and these community ovens are a way of getting the adults interested in using the parks, too."
Her interest in architecture and living close to the Dartmouth Common have given Rand good reasons to be interested in a community oven.
She says she first heard about the possibility of having a community oven about one year ago.
Jeff Overmars, an original proponent of the oven approached Coun. Gloria McCluskey, who gave $20,000 for the project from her district capital fund.
"I thought it was a great idea," said McCluskey.
Rand said the idea for an oven was to be an extension of the community garden, a kind of 'cook what you grow' initiative and then it expanded from there.
"In a sense it is like a big piece of pottery. It has three doors that fold up to become sun shades and lots of counter space."
Rand has cooked fish at the oven and there have been a few gatherings of neighbours at the garden.
"We shared yummy baked squash, pizza, bread. Anything is possible."
A blacksmith designed the hardware as they went along, and there was a lot of work and thought that went into the construction, said Rand.
"Many things were taken into consideration before the oven was built. The proximity to the community gardens, so it would be an opportunity to educate about growing and cooking food. It would have to be close to a water spigot, away from the prevailing winds of the harbour, face the Park Avenue Gate so people would feel welcome, close to the gate and flat terrain for easy accessibility and have a connection to citizen activism in creating public spaces in Leighton Dillman Park."
The oven is not run by the city but is controlled by the community group.
Anyone wishing to use the oven must contact the Park Avenue Community Oven Group.
They are looking for more volunteers to help them teach people how to use the oven and possibly run cooking programs there in the future.
Rand said she would really like to see churches, families and businesses in the neighbourhood make use of the oven on a regular basis.
"It is a fantastic way to bring people together, eat good food and educate each other."
To contact the community oven group email email@example.com