Late last week, the locally based HK Community Fund announced it was awarding a $3,000 grant to the nascent Maplewood Community Garden project. The award was a welcome boost to Community Garden project organizers after a number of residents came to the Township Committee meeting on February 16 to register their opposition to the project as planned.
Clearly, Tom Kerns of HK Community Fund sees no downside to this project: "HK Community Fund's tag line is 'enhancing the sense of belonging and unity' and we feel that a community garden does just that. In fact, in addition to providing garden plots to families, the Maplewood Community Garden has reserved plots for children as well as plots that will grow vegetables to be donated. It is efforts such as this that promote the sense of belonging that make a community."
Maplewood Community Gardens will subdivide the square parcel of land directly behind Maplewood Town Hall into 24 plots of ground for local residents (or groups, schools or businesses) to soe, hoe and reap for the 2010 growing season at a nominal cost. The project is being spearheaded by Irene Dunsavage. If her name is familiar, it is because Dunsavage taught art at Clinton School for 26 years, retiring in June 2009. Dunsavage is assisted in this project by Jan Zientek of the Rutgers University Master Gardeners Program.
Presby Iris Gardens in Montclair is donating tons of topsoil for the raised beds that will be installed at the gardens. Rutgers is providing classes to the community gardeners—for a fee (last reported as $25/per gardener).
At the February 16 Maplewood Township Committee meeting, several residents took to the microphone during public commentary to express concerns about the community garden project including possible lead in the soil, flooding in the area, and the fact that the community garden might obscure a memorial garden located behind it.
Dunsavage replied to the concerns: "There is no contamination. The soil is coming from tested soil at Presby Gardens and the compost is coming from the Town." In addition, Dunsavage noted that, to accommodate the concerns of the Garden Club, she has redesigned the plot placements so that there is a 12-foot clearance between the community garden and the memorial garden. "The space will remain as a quiet area where seating may be placed, allowing for quiet contemplation and a restful place for the gardeners," said Dunsavage.
Regarding flooding in the area, she added, "The raised beds may help any draining issues that are present. Extra soil will absorb water, not allow its flow into other areas."
Dunsavage is quick to focus on additional bonuses that the community garden is providing, besides the opportunity to grow your own organic vegetables: "In addition, a separate area for the food panties will be in place with each member and volunteers gardening that plot."
And a special children's garden—as mentioned above by Tom Kerns—will provide activities "just for kids" and will be geared to engaging "our young ones in the art of growing." A program for the children's garden will have participating children keeping nature journals in which they can draw and write about the growing experience.
Meanwhile, Dunsavage has several committees going, including a construction committee which has designed kits that will be provided to each plot lessee so that they can build their own raised beds.
Dunsavage noted, "All expenses are being borne by the members with their fees reimbursing the town for water."
Two lots are still available for $65 ($25 to be refunded after the growing season). Contact Dunsavage if you are interested in reserving.