Community Gardens will grow again

comm gardenJohn Scarffe, Nederland.  The Nederland Board of Trustees considered a water discount proposal for the Community Gardens at 34 East First Street during a regular meeting at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 15, 2016, at the Nederland Community Center. Nine Nederland residents spoke in favor of the proposal.

Elizabeth Allen, Nederland champion for the Community Gardens, said her objective is for the Town to waive the $603 water fee. Town Administrator Alisha Reis said the gardens also requested other materials, but Town staff can accommodate that in the Town’s budget.

Allen said an outstanding water bill closed the gardens in 2015. The owners, David and Vicki Poe, will not be responsible for the water bill and need accountability for those using the gardens, but they have expressed support for the project. The Agriculture Subcommittee of the Nederland Sustainability Advisory Board submitted a proposal for a 100 percent fee discount and waiver for water to assist with the creation of a community gardens.

Allen cited the Town’s Nedzero planning documents since it complies with creating and using a community garden and sponsoring educational and food gardening presentations. As of January 2016, the gardens have used 10,000 gallons of water, Allen said, partially due to leaks in the irrigation system.

The gardens use 15 gallons of water per plot per day and have 25 lots totaling 70,000 gallons of water. Plot fees will be collected to cover costs of hoses, hose guards and pest control, Allen said. The SAB Agriculture Subcommittee will collect and assess the fees. Besides good nutrition, the gardens will benefit the community through food security in case of emergencies, education, service, and strengthening family and community relationships, Allen said.

Garden organizers plan to meet on Tuesday, March 29, at 7 p.m. and will call for volunteers to help set up the property, Allen said. Lots of work needs to be done, and two work days will be scheduled.

Initial work must be completed in 3-1/2 months. Much organization work already has been done. Allen hopes by 2017 they will have more data on water usage and will be able to position the town as a Category 1 group for a water discount.

“We’ll pay the amount over the $603 fee waiver,” Allen said, and the waiver would be just for 2016. The gardens’ hose has a locked meter, but the group is hoping to get a more state-of-the-art meter.

It was an underground water system, and many heads are broken and shattered, Allen said. Trustee Topher Donahue said it seems like a spray method is not a good way to go, and a drip method at night would be better. Allen agreed and explained that a spray can cause a lot of problems.

Nine members of the public addressed the Board in favor of the gardens. They included horticulturalists, master gardeners, the Wild Bear education coordinator and a former trustee.

Most would like to have a plot in the gardens but would relinquish theirs if demand was too high. Others already had gardens at their homes.

The gardens would meet the need for people who don’t have space to garden. They explained that the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts have signed up, and Wild Bear will be involved for children.

Visitors also will visit the plots and will then continue downtown and spend money in Nederland businesses. Another resident said, “I’m flabbergasted at the support.” About 25 people came to a planning meeting.

Nederland Downtown Development Authority Chair Katrina Harms said the DDA supports the gardens. “I look forward to the Community Gardens being a part of the First Street and Main Street area.”

Mayor Joe Gierlach said that $603 is an awkward number and will entertain $625. Trustee Charles Wood thanked all those who are making this happen. “I will approve it 100 percent.”

Donahue said the Board should approve the waiver as proposed but would like to see low water use and fund raising. Trustee Kevin Mueller said: “I think it’s great the synergy that happens. Certain enterprises make a lot of sense. It should be part of our infrastructure plan.”

Wood pledged $50 of his own money for the project and moved to approve the fee waiver. The Board approved the motion.

The April 5 Board meeting will be canceled due to Town elections. The next meeting of the Nederland Board of Trustees will be on Tuesday, April 19, 2016, at 7 p.m. at the Nederland Community Center.