There’s a heated game of pickup basketball going on at the big court in the middle of Grant Park on a recent Wednesday evening. At nearby Grant Elementary School, a handful of teens are shooting hoops and some younger kids are playing at the playground. It’s a typical summer evening in Grant Park, and in the community garden a group of sweaty volunteers are digging out about a foot of dirt around the wheelchair-accessible beds, in between taking turns drinking out of the garden hose.
“We are putting in pavers so the beds will be easier to get to for people in wheelchairs,” said Kevin Kunz, who is with the local company Aroura LLC, which sells and installs permeable bricks for driveways. “The pavers were meant for another project that didn’t work out, so here we are.”
Marshall Powell lives in the neighborhood and has been part of the Grant garden project since its inception two years ago.
“Our first growing season last year was kind of a stretch, because we got started a little late,” said Powell, who has a huge vegetable garden at home and a bed at the Grant garden.
It was Brian Estes, then president of the South Perry Farmers Market, who in January 2011 helped win the Spokane Park Board’s approval for this garden and another on parkland in Peaceful Valley.
Powell, who is co-chair of the garden and also on the board of the South Perry Business and Neighborhood Association, said they didn’t expect approval to come so quickly, and the Parks Department encouraged them to get the garden in last summer.
“We were surprised, but it worked out great,” said Powell.
There are 39 beds in the Grant Garden, including four beds that meet the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“We have two gardeners who are in power chairs,” said Powell, “it’s important to us that they have good access.”
Grant Elementary School has a garden club that cultivates two of the biggest beds in the garden, and Powell estimates about 35 neighborhood families garden there.
“We have talked about asking to expand the garden,” Powell said. An expansion would have to be approved by the Spokane Park Board.
Since the beginning, the Grant garden has struggled with completion of one big project: a fence.
Some initial cost estimates were near $10,000, a figure way out of reach for the garden, Powell said, but they are working on some other options and hope to have a fence up by fall.
“A fence does make a difference. It means we can put up compost bins and stuff like that,” Powell said.
It also cuts down on plant theft and vandalism.
Powell said the neighborhood has been incredibly supportive of the garden.
“I think the garden ties in really well with the businesses on South Perry,” Powell said. “They are so community-minded and helpful. That has made it easy.”
It’s the South Perry Business and Neighborhood Association that’s the umbrella organization for the garden and also the entity that is responsible if things don’t work out.
“I wish more people would want to be involved in the actual governance of the garden,” said Powell, when asked if the garden has a wish list. “Everyone likes to come dig in the dirt, but we need people to help with the organizing too.”