Community garden set to flourish in 2010



March 10, 2010 - 12:00 AM

The sixth year of Elm Creek Community Garden is shaping up to be the busiest yet.
Carolyn McLean, who with her husband, Val, owns the land on which the garden sits, spoke extensively Tuesday with Iola commissioners about plans for the community garden.
McLean also posed a pair of requests. The garden asked the city to supply labor to install five more water hydrants and a light pole to accommodate the garden’s growth.
The garden will more than double in size from last year, McLean said, and will include several elevated plots for disabled users.
Much of the expansion was made possible through a pair of grants, including $49,000 from the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City and $24,900 in federal stimulus funds. So far, ECCG is the only non-profit group in Allen County to receive such stimulus money, McLean noted.
The grant funding has allowed the garden to hire a full-time attendant who will help any gardener at the site as well as a part-time bookkeeper, McLean said.
The garden’s growth was also assisted by the previous addition of water service to the west, McLean said.
Commissioners agreed to supply the labor, expected to cost about $1,400, while the garden pays about $2,500 for supplies.
McLean also asked the city if improvements could be made to neighboring streets and an alley that dissects the garden to make the area safer for pedestrians and to allow more accessible parking.
“It’s a safety issue,” McLean said, noting that narrow streets and steep ditches make it difficult for pedestrians to get to the garden if traffic is busy.
She also wondered if the approach to an alley near First and Vine streets could be widened for cars parking at the garden.
Widening would be a costly venture, responded Street and Alley Superintendent Dan Leslie. Plus, altering the alley could affect water drainage in the neighborhood.
Commissioners directed Leslie and Assistant City Administrator Corey Schinstock to look at other options, including whether the alley could be closed off on the west end and widened to the east.
They also gave permission for SAFE BASE buses to park in a vacant lot near the garden.
Elm Creek Community Garden also is working extensively this year with SAFE BASE, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Southeast Kansas Mental Health Center, Thrive Allen County and Allen County Farm Bureau on a new Allen County Farmers Market, McLean noted.

AS THE growing season approaches, commissioners approved a change in the city’s ordinances regarding mailed notices for weeds and excess vegetation, eliminating the need to send violators a certified letter. Now, those notices can be sent via regular mail.
The city sent out 110 such notices last year, reported Tony Godfrey, assistant code services officer.
In an unrelated matter, commissioners gave their approval to Tri-Valley Developmental Services to use the city’s pocket park next to City Hall to grow plants and flowers.
Tri-Valley recently moved to the old Embassy Shoes building next door and has promised to maintain the park and keep it free of litter and other debris.

THE CITY’S bi-annual cleanup week will run April 5-9.
Iolans have until 5 p.m. April 1 to call 365-4903 or 365-4910 to schedule city crews to pick up such things as yard debris, furniture, small lumber, appliances without freon and other miscellaneous items.
The city is asking that yard waste be kept separate from other items.
The city also will auction off surplus equipment at its power plant at 5:30 p.m. May 13.
The bulk will be bicycles, City Administrator Judy Brigham said. Iola police officers have accumulated more than 100 bicycles that have been abandoned or dumped in various parts of town.

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