By Julie Brown Patton
Eureka residents and nearby neighbors with green thumbs now can participate in a city community garden. At press time, plans were to have built 50 bedding boxes filled with soil during a work day July 10, weather permitting. Resident registration of individual plots begins July 13.
The garden is located between Eureka City Hall and Geggie Elementary School, 430 Bald Hill Road. The site’s total size is 96 by 104 feet. The garden has 50 beds available for fall planting, with each space about 4 by 8 feet in size. The area will be fenced and have at least two gates. Eureka Public Works Department staffers ran running water to the location in preparation for the work day.
The fee for Eureka residents to use a garden bed is $50 for the year, with an additional $25 deposit to be refunded according to end-of-season cleanup policies. Non-resident registration fees are $60 yearly, plus the $25 refundable deposit, and will be offered July 24, if any plots remain available.
Planting of the new garden should open Aug. 1.
Two of the city’s board members are heading up the project: Ward 3 Alderman Don Beckerle and Ward 2 Alderwoman Carleen Murray.
Murray said board members approved spending up to $17,000 in city funds through an amended 2017 city budget.
“We’re hoping to bring the community together at this unique location with the school, city hall, residents and even the police located nearby,” Murray said.
Sparking project excitement is working.
“I’m on fire about this garden becoming an instructional tool, and am rallying parents,” said Geggie Elementary Principal Mary Kleekamp.
Stephen Sanders, a physician and internal medicine specialist affiliated with Mercy, said he’s looking forward to gardening at the new spot to raise food for the Eureka Food Pantry.
In addition to individual growing beds, Beckerle said city staffers also hope to create kid-friendly areas in the corner of the garden closest to Geggie Elementary. He said people have asked about the possibility of a community garden for the past 10 years.
“We hope many will organize group efforts and that everyone will enjoy sharing and rotating garden volunteer leadership,” he said.
During a community garden volunteer committee on June 29, Eureka’s Director of Parks and Recreation Missy Myers said this inaugural year’s fall plot fee would extend through next spring. She also said city teams are enthused about the possibilities of incorporating the garden into The Timber’s Tots program and summer camps. She said she talked extensively to the organizers of the Wildwood Family YMCA community garden to learn tips and advice.
“It’s all about community, education and giving,” she said.
Garden meetings and work parties already are being contemplated. Volunteer leadership positions range from “Guardian of the Garden” coordinator, communications leader and site manager to grounds leader, weeding manager and social/education leader.
Resident Jodie Fleer said her mother raised vegetables in organic ways “before organic was cool,” and that she loves the community garden idea, so much so, she volunteered for the new guardian coordinator volunteer position.
Tim Walters, a leader with Boy Scout Troop 322, said he definitely can envision productive future projects for scouts at the new garden.
To register for a plot, gardeners can tap into the Eureka Parks and Recreation app on iTunes, secure an application at The Timbers of Eureka or call 636-938-6775 and ask for Ted Barklage. Participants will sign “Gardener Guidelines” that delineate details about safety, management, common courtesy, planting, weeds, potential vandalism and maintenance. All garden members must use products approved by The Official Organic Growers of America.
Another 50 gardening beds are planned to be added next year, along with work benches.