Montrose Community Garden Might Move
With the future of the Montrose School up in the air, the community garden on site might be forced to relocate.
The Montrose School Community Garden in South Orange, which broke ground six months ago, has already become a valuable resource for district students, community members and local food pantries, according to organizers and beneficiaries.
But now, with the future of the Montrose School — the district’s alternative high school for at-risk students — looking uncertain (see story here), the garden may face eviction from its current location.
Garden coordinator Irene Dunsavage said district officials informed her earlier this month that the school population at Montrose may be moved back to Columbia High School (CHS) for the 2012-13 school year. “Consequently, we do not know whether the space will be available for the garden,” said Dunsavage.
However, Dunsavage said that CHS Principal Dr. Lovie Lilly has expressed support for the garden, and discussions are underway to determine whether it will remain in its current location or possibly be relocated to CHS.
“We were very pleased that the garden has met with the approval of the district and we look forward to its continued development,” said Dunsavage.
The garden is one of three Maplewood Community Gardens; the others are located behind the Municipal Building on Valley Street and near the town pool on Boyden Avenue.
Montrose students were briefly engaged in an organic gardening initiative funded by the Achieve Foundation, but that program is no longer active. However, students from the CHS AP Environmental Education class use the garden for projects and lessons.
In addition, the garden supplies produce to the South Orange B’nai Brith Federation House, the Jewish Community Housing Corp. at the Village Apartments, the DeHart Community Center and St. Joseph’s Food Pantry.
“We have donated a total of 1,600-1,800 pounds of produce from the three garden sites — and the majority comes from the Montrose Garden,” said Dunsavage.
Bryna Stone, site manager of the B'nai B'rith Federation House wrote that residents appreciated the donations: “The produce was scooped up almost immediately. Sometimes you brought produce that was not familiar to them … the tenants swapped recipes and learned to try something new.”
The garden also rents out plots to five community members for $75 per year. As word spread in recent weeks that the garden’s future might be in jeopardy, community members stepped up to express their support. A group of Meeker Street residents started a petition in favor of keeping the garden in its current location.
“I am very sad to hear that the garden may go away. It has been such a nice addition to the community,” wrote local resident Debra Bernath.
“The families help us keep an eye out for invaders like deer, and regularly fix our cut hoses,” said Dunsavage. “Without them we would have suffered great losses.”
She noted that many local neighbors walk by and ask about renting a plot for next season. “They tell us that the garden has helped create a community and neighborly feeling among local residents,” she said. “The garden can open up many avenues for the community and students and can have wide-reaching impact.”