It’s been a long and winding regulatory road, but this week the Sprouts Garden refurbishment has begun with the demolition of the old garden infrastructure and the beginning of the large, Phase 1 rebuild.
The Sprouts Garden has been in existence since the 1970s on Terminal Street next to the soccer and softball fields, and the more modern iteration of the garden started in the 1990s – with many people growing herbs and vegetables to help feed their families.
The garden has been active for years, but some boundary issues and caretaking problems had resulted in some blight to the garden, but those days are now long-behind the space.
“We’re trying to create a nice tranquil space that doesn’t accumulate garbage,” said Board member Jesse Gallagher. “That’s a challenging street there…There’s something about reinvigorating that space. It’s a beautiful area. We have an opportunity here to reset the tone…and make a place where people find a safe community…I think it’s going to be beautiful and people will approach it differently and they will see it’s nice. I think its going to be a re-birth.”
Gerald Robbins, also a member of the Board, said the Garden will just be a nicer place to be, and the new fencing will allow a better understanding of how the School Department and the Garden can better care for the space.
“I am excited and leading a community garden is surprisingly a lot of work and a lot of people working in the same direction. With this project and the fencing there will be a cleaner and safer space around it. The School District owned part of that land. We’ll have our space marked and outside of the fencing, the City will be able to clean up their part and everyone can enjoy it. It’s an important space for neighbors to meet each other, exercise and help with food security.”
The plan began in 2019 to refurbish the garden, and there were some very lively and productive meetings in the late part of 2019. However, COVID-19 got in the way of the plans, and due to regulatory issues, the garden plan had to jump through many permitting hoops that just ended in January. In the meantime, fundraising efforts have gone from having $118,000 to $183,000 with more expected very soon.
The demolition began this week, and by mid-week the old garden and some of the blighted areas had been cleaned up and removed. That will wrap up soon and next Thursday, the contractor will move in to build out Phase 1 of the project, which should take about one month and leave ample time to plant for the summer months.
Phase 1 includes rebuilding the pathways to make the garden more accessible, building out 36 cedar-lined garden plots on the part closest to the playing fields, building a fence, putting in irrigation, building about eight raised beds for those with mobility challenges, adding compost tumblers, and perhaps adding benches for sitting.
Phase 2 will begin in the fall and will include an expansion of about 10 to 15 plots on the hill area closer to Terminal Street. There, they will use granite bed liners so that they are more permanent.
Already, the garden plots are filled up. Last year, they had about 32 people put in deposits for new garden plots this year, and they have about 10 people that have been added since then.
“We do have more people interested than plots available at this point,” said Robbins.
The Sprouts Garden began the journey after receiving $92,000 from the City’s Grass Roots program. They have also received $20,000 from the casino mitigation fund, another $29,000 from the Ora McCleary Fund, two state agricultural grants, and other funds from private donors.
A Grand Opening celebration is planned for June 26, though details on that will come later.