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New community garden challenges in Redlands (chpt 2)

  • Subject: [cg] New community garden challenges in Redlands (chpt 2)
  • From: Don Boekelheide dboekelheide@yahoo.com
  • Date: Sat, 22 Jan 2005 14:01:48 -0800 (PST)

(Poster's note: Anybody have time to help these folks
out? Sounds like they could use a little ACGA help...)

Redlands, California, Daily Facts

Seeds are planted for northside community garden

By Steven Sabel
Our Town Editor

REDLANDS Despite a few squabbles, the Northside
Community Garden project is moving forward, according
to Councilwoman Patricia Gilbreath.

Gilbreath is leading the project to use city land to
create a community garden in which residents can rent
plots for a nominal fee. The garden will be created on
strip of land between houses lining Calhoun and Texas
streets, accessible at Lugonia Avenue or Pennsylvania
Street.

Community gardens at Smiley Elementary School and
Clement Middle School are a great success, according
to Master Gardener Robert Schuler. Schuler said he
likes to think of a community garden as place of
education as well as recreation. He was one of several
gardeners who volunteered to assist the city with
planning the new community garden.

Gary McCormick, another community gardener who
volunteered to help with the new Northside Community
Garden and who was coordinating work with other
volunteers, said Gilbreath told them to "back out of
it." He and Schuler are no longer involved.

Gilbreath said the project is not yet ready for the
volunteers' involvement.

"We just weren't ready for them yet," said Gilbreath.

In a letter addressed to Mayor Susan Peppler,
McCormick asked the mayor to intervene.

"I was dismayed and offended when I was recently
contacted by Council member Pat Gilbreath and told to
back out of it,' " McCormick wrote to Peppler. "If
indeed we are to stand down I would appreciate that
command coming from you."

Peppler said that she remembers the letter. Copies
were sent to the other members of the council, as well
as key city staff involved with the project.

"It's the community's garden," said Peppler. "Everyone
lending their expertise is what makes it work."

Peppler said the issue needed to be resolved. She said
that she was not clear on the details of the project
because little information had come before the City
Council.

"There hasn't been anything before the council," said
Peppler.

Public Works Director Ron Mutter said the project came
through the city's Parks and Recreation Commission
before receiving direction from the council for the
concept to move forward. The project then went before
the Planning Commission for approval, with the final
conditional use permit granted Feb. 25, 2003, said
Mutter. The initial phases of infrastructure
improvements necessary to facilitate the garden will
begin soon, he said.

Gilbreath agrees. She said that there are a number of
businesses that have pledged goods and services to the
project. Wal-Mart has given a grant of nearly $13,000
to the Redlands Community Foundation. Except for the
piping, the city will be fully reimbursed through the
grant, said Gilbreath.

Gilbreath is glad to see the project moving forward.

"The project has been moving very slowly for various
reasons," she said. "The project sat there forever
waiting for finances."

Once the infrastructure is in place, Gilbreath said
she will seek volunteers who are interested in
assisting with the project.

"As we get ready for them for to be involved in the
process, we'll bring them in," said Gilbreath.

McCormick believes that the volunteers can assist with
the planning process, before major infrastructure is
put in place. He and the other gardeners believe that
the sizes and lay out of the plots is essential to the
success of the garden.

"My fellow gardeners and I embraced the project,
investing considerable time and effort to insure the
most efficient plan possible," said McCormick.

Schuler believes that the garden should be designed to
contain smaller plots of 20 feet by 20 feet. He says
that plots of that size are successful at other
community gardens because they are easy to manage.
Plots are first rented to gardeners by skipping every
other plot, leaving vacancies next to early gardeners
who may want to expand their operation to the next
plot. This also spreads out the vacancies until the
garden is full, eliminating the blighted look of empty
gardens all clumped together, said Schuler.

Gilbreath wants larger plots at the Northside
Community Garden. Her plans call for plots measuring
40 feet by 20 feet. She says the plots can always be
subdivided later. She said the current design of the
garden calls for 28 plots surrounding a central shade
and rest area. The smaller plot size would provide
approximately 59 spaces.

The break down in communication may be due to a lack
of direction from the council.

Recreation Department employee Denny Sattler said he
sat in on early meetings with the volunteer committee.

"There is not a staff member assigned to the project,"
said Sattler. "We haven't been given any direction
yet."

Peppler does not recall the council giving any formal
direction on the matter after approving the concept.

"Most of the time a committee is formed and the
council appoints a member or two to serve on the
committee," said Peppler. "Most council members bring
their projects before the council," she said.

That is what McCormick wants.

"I would like to be assured that we will be free to
complete the project as discussed," said McCormick.

"We may need to bring it to a full council vote," said Peppler.


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