On Elizabeth Road, just south of Sprague Avenue, there is a small patch of land waiting to be turned into a lush, green space, with neighbors working the land and getting to know one another.
Spokane Valley Partners is expanding its community garden program to Edgecliff. That neighborhood has struggled to maintain community gathering spots, especially since the closure of Pratt Elementary in 2007.
Spokane Public Schools’ Bancroft School is scheduled to move to Pratt this fall. Spokane Valley Partners hope the garden will help rejuvenate the neighborhood.
Omar Akkari, community gardens coordinator for Spokane Valley Partners, said the one-third acre lot has been leased from East Spokane Water District 1. The five-year agreement stipulates Spokane Valley Partners can use the land for free, as long as the organization provides weed control.
Fenced on three sides already to keep deer away from a wellhead on land next to the garden site, Akkari said he is just waiting for a fourth side of the fence to begin construction. The design isn’t finalized – the state requires the water department maintain control of the land 100 feet around the wellhead. Akkari is working to make sure the design is in compliance.
Akkari’s design for the garden is circular, with a pergola, benches, fruit trees and bushes, a children’s play area and a butterfly garden. The idea is to bring the community together to garden, raise produce for their families and to provide fresh fruits and vegetables for the food bank at Spokane Valley Partners.
“We’re trying to accomplish both,” Akkari said. Part of the program’s mission is to increase access to nutritionally dense foods, promote urban agriculture, provide opportunities for entrepreneurship and reduce Spokane Valley Partners food bank’s dependence on external food vendors.
To help with this, Akkari said the program just received a $1,500 GRO1000 Grassroots Grant from Scotts Miracle-Gro. The funds are part of the company’s plans to develop 1,000 gardens and green spaces in the United States, Canada and Europe by 2018, the company’s 150th anniversary.
This is the second community garden Spokane Valley Partners has organized. The first opened last year across from Valley Mission Park. Gardeners there donated melons, squash, cucumbers, beans, lettuces, herbs and at least 1,000 pounds of tomatoes for the food bank.
Along with a fundraiser April 5 at nYne Bistro and Bar, the program will need volunteers to help with seasonal harvests, clean-up days, education and outreach projects and daily operations. They will also need people interested in renting plots to work for the summer. Each garden plot can be rented for $10.
After some planning meetings with the neighbors, Akkari said he already knows of some people interested in renting plots. There was a group of neighbors who in the past have signed a petition to start a garden, four or five community members and one neighbor who is known as a seed saver.
“They’re slowly coming out of the woodwork,” he said.