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Battlecreek, Michigan: Community garden idea taking root in Cereal City

  • Subject: [cg] Battlecreek, Michigan: Community garden idea taking root in Cereal City
  • From: Adam36055@aol.com
  • Date: Mon, 23 Aug 2004 11:32:45 EDT

By Christine Iwan
The Enquirer


For three master gardeners, 21 S. Wabash St. is more than just a vacant lot.

They see about 30 garden plots, each 4 feet by 8 feet, with mulched pathways between them. They see vegetables growing and flowers blooming in individual raised beds. They see residents of the McKinley neighborhood pulling weeds together as they talk about how to clean up the streets.

Petra Jones, Barb Shively and Irina Clopatofsky are starting a community garden through the Creekside Community House as a way to bring the neighborhood together. They've completed the master gardener course and thought they could use their green thumbs and involvement in the house, also on South Wabash, to grow this group garden.

"The basis is the community," Shively said. "We're trying to get people to use the community house more. Without the community house, we wouldn't have a community garden."

According to the American Community Gardening Association, there are about 10,000 community gardens in the United States and Canada.

The way it will work is this: People will sign up for a plot, which the community house will dole out free of charge. Gardeners can grow whatever they like, as long as it's legal and as long as they are responsible for their beds.

There are some logistical issues still being considered, such as whether pesticides can be used. But since most plants can't be started again until next spring, organizers have some time to think about the details.

"We can dream good dreams of spring while it's snowing outside," Jones said.

This will be the only community garden of this type in Battle Creek, said Lori Sadowski, outreach specialist for Leila Arboretum, which is donating top soil for the project. There used to be a similar project in the Park Hill neighborhood, but that's no longer active.

The McKinley neighborhood garden is getting help from several places. The land is owned by Neighborhoods Inc. The city has agreed to donate mulch and is working with the residents on other maintenance issues. The group needed to do a survey of the land and is building a fence, which is being funded by a $500 donation from the community house and a $2,500 grant from Yes We Can!

"This is something I think we should do more of in the community," Sadowski said.

Jones said anybody can sign up for a plot. Each of the three women plan to use one. For Shively, whose home garden is mostly in the shade, this will be an ideal place to grow vegetables.

First and foremost is to get the McKinley area residents involved -- after all, it is a neighborhood garden.

Clopatofsky lives in Springfield, but the other two women live in the neighborhood. Jones and Shively both have their own gardens -- Jones prefers cottage gardens while Shively enjoys the more organized type English gardens -- but they see this as more than a spot to grow tomatoes.

The garden itself will welcome people with a sign among bushes and flowers at its entrance. Past that, the plots will be surrounded by a chain-link fence, except for the front where a picket fence will be built. In the back, under a large shade tree, the group hopes to put a picnic area and maybe a sandbox for the children.

"We really hope this makes a difference," Clopatofsky said. "It's fun too."

To participate
To register for a plot at the Creekside Community Garden at 21 S. Wabash St., or to help organizers build the garden, call Petra Jones at 209-3736.

Christine Iwan covers human interest stories in the Battle Creek community. She can be reached at 966-0684 or ciwan@battlecr.gannett.com

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Originally published Monday, August 23, 2004

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