February 17, 2011 in Washington Voices

Community gardens nurture more than crops

Pat Munts

Gardeners in the East Central Community Garden have grown great crops and built a new community around the garden.
(Full-size photo)

It is amazing what a few days of sunshine and reasonable temperatures can do to bring gardeners out of wherever they have been holed up for the winter. One of the signs of this is that questions are already coming in about community gardens around the area. “Where can I find a bed?” And, my favorite, “Where can I volunteer?”

Community gardening in Spokane has taken some great strides in the last three years. With the help of a Healthy Communities grant from the Spokane Regional Health District, the community has begun organizing and developing community gardens around the area. The city of Spokane reviewed its land use policies to be sure they were community garden friendly and gave access to a few city staff to help facilitate communication with other city entities. In 2008, the Spokane Water Department opened the grounds of its pumping and storage facilities to community gardeners. Last year community gardening spread to the Spokane Valley when Millwood Presbyterian Church, Millwood citizens and Inland Paper Co. teamed to build the Pumpkin Patch Community Garden on Argonne Road in Millwood.

Last week the Spokane Parks Board took a huge step to support garden development by approving a policy that will allow community gardens to be built in city parks. This year, two gardens will be put in to test the new policy. One will be built in Grant Park in the Perry District and the other will be on park land just west of the Peaceful Valley Community Center.

The Grant Park project is being spearheaded by the Perry Street Business Association, the Perry Farmers Market and neighborhood residents. The group held their first organizational meeting last Saturday and is now beginning the planning process. If you are interested in joining the effort, contact Brian Estes at smsgarden@gmail.com. The Peaceful Valley project is a youth-based project of Community Minded Enterprises managed by Taylor Weech. She can be reached at (509) 444-3088 or info@communityminded.org.

The development of community gardens hasn’t just led to more gardeners growing their favorite vegetable. It has also sparked stronger communities around the gardens. Neighbors are getting to know each other and forming relationships that are addressing other community needs.

It is time to harness this energy and form a communitywide group. Stronger communities will help everyone weather these trying times and build the community’s resilience to meet other challenges now and in the future.

To that end, the community is invited to explore forming a communitywide community gardens networking group at a meeting Monday evening, Feb. 28. The meeting starts at 6 p.m. at the Washington State University Spokane County Extension Office, 222 N. Havana St. Contact Pat Munts at pmunts@spokanecounty.org for more information.

If you are looking for a bed in a community garden, a list of public gardens and how to contact them will be available shortly on the WSU Spokane County Master Gardener website: www.spokane-county. wsu.edu/spokane/eastside/.

Pat Munts is a Master Gardener who has gardened the same acre in Spokane Valley for 30 years. She can be reached by e-mail at pat@inlandnwgardening.com

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