January 22, 2011 in City, Washington Voices

Community garden progressing

Grant Park could be site of pilot project this year
By The Spokesman-Review
 
Map of this story's location

Many ideas were batted around the table at the South Perry Business and Neighborhood Association meeting Jan. 11, but the group was most excited about a proposed community garden in Grant Park.

Brian Estes, president of the board of directors of the South Perry Farmers Market, said the Spokane Parks Department is looking at a community garden in Grant Park to become a pilot project for the city.

And the city would like to see the garden go in this summer.

“We were a little surprised by that,” said Estes, explaining that the original plan was for the garden to begin sprouting next year.

Estes, who is also the program coordinator of Vinegar Flats Community Garden, reported that the Parks Department is on board with the project.

Director of the Spokane Parks and Recreation Department Leroy Eadie said in a later phone interview that there are two pilot community gardens being proposed this spring: one in Grant Park and one in Peaceful Valley at a site commonly referred to as the old casket factory.

“I obviously can’t approve this, it has to go to the Parks Board for approval,” said Eadie, who’s putting the finishing touches on a community garden policy that could be applied to other community gardens on park property.

Eadie is taking the proposal to Parks Department Lands Committee on Feb. 9 and to the Parks Board on Feb. 10.

The city’s water department already has some community gardens on its property, including one near Sacajawea Middle School.

Lea Scott, an AmeriCorps volunteer with Vinegar Flats Community Garden, is coordinating the community input part of the Grant Park project.

A neighborhood survey will be conducted as soon as possible via handouts available at South Perry businesses and an online survey tool.

“It is very important to us that we know what the community wants to see in this garden,” Scott said.

Estes presented this rough outline: it will be a 100-foot by 100-foot plot.

It has not been determined where in the park the garden will be located, or whether it will have several smaller plots – one for each grower – or be one big garden where everyone works on growing vegetables in bulk.

Another issue is that the Spokane Parks Department must have a neighborhood organization that will sign on as a fiscal agent for the community garden and be responsible for the garden’s maintenance. Estes very much wanted South Perry Business and Neighborhood Association to take on that role, but the group is not a registered nonprofit organization so it would take some reorganization to be able to do so.

When association president Deb Conklin asked if members were interested in becoming the fiscal agent for the garden, a majority of hands went up around the table.

Jerry Numbers, president of the East Central Neighborhood Council and a longtime East Central neighborhood activist, pointed out that working with Grant Elementary School to create a garden club could benefit everyone.

“When it comes to the location of the garden it must be taken into consideration that Grant uses the park for a variety of activities during the school days,” Numbers said.

Further, there are already community gardens at the East Central Community Center and in other East Central locations, he said.

“I think it’s important that the Grant Community Garden is closely connected to the East Central Neighborhood Council,” Numbers said.

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