It isn’t scheduled to officially open for another week, but Elm Creek Community Garden was abuzz with activity Wednesday.
At one side of the complex were city crews installing a series of water hydrants, necessary to add dozens more plots on the east side of the garden near First and Rock streets. On the other end of the site, more city crews were installing a new light pole and replacing another to make the garden a bit brighter after dark.
Both had been requested a day earlier by Carolyn McLean, one of the community garden’s founding members.
Then there was volunteer Claire Killion, a student at Allen County Community College, who provides labor once a week while school is in session. Since September, Killion has cleaned off and repainted more than 80 stone markers designating individual garden plots.
On Wednesday, she focused on spreading mulch over freshly plowed plots with the assistance of John Richards, the community garden’s attendant.
Meanwhile, watching it all was a group of University of Kansas representatives seeking ways for other towns in the state to improve their community gardens.
“This is a beautiful garden,” said Sara Sack, a research professor and director of assistive technology at KU. “The design is fantastic, and it’s wonderful to see the commitment from so many people in the community.”
Sack hopes to use Elm Creek as a prototype that other communities can mirror, pointing to the newly established plots for disabled gardeners and the local garden’s affiliation with SAFE BASE, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Southeast Kansas Mental Health Center, Thrive Allen County and Allen County Farm Bureau to form a new Farmers Market as another appeal.
The college learned of ECCG through the Internet, McLean said, thanks to ECCG’s affiliation with the American Community Garden Association.
“We’re impressed with the scope of collaboration,” said Patty Moore, another of the out-of-town visitors.
McLean said the garden likely will see plenty of visitors through the spring and summer as other communities look at ECCG’s success.
KILLION, who attended high school in Topeka, learned about the garden while a student in Val McLean’s service learning class at ACCC.
Val McLean is Carolyn’s husband and another founding member of ECCG.
“I come from a very service-oriented high school, where volunteerism is something everybody loves to do,” Killion said.
Since September, she has worked at the garden 90 minutes each Wednesday afternoon, and is appreciative of the warmer spring weather.
“It’s nice to work out here and not freeze,” she said with a laugh.
“Claire has done a tremendous job,” Carolyn McLean said.
The garden officially opens for use on Wednesday.
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