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Gardening the Community expands

Aug. 6, 2014 | G. Michael Dobbs

SPRINGFIELD – On Aug. 2, volunteers gathered to clear two parcels at 200-206 Walnut St. for the latest expansion of Gardening the Community (GTC).

Anne Richmond, the program director for the organization, explained to Reminder Publications the lots would be used not just for garden space, but also as the location of a pavilion and parking area.

The non-profit organization has been teaching young people in the neighborhoods near Mason Square how to grow fruits and vegetables since 2002. It has three other sites it leases from the city of Springfield and private business.

Richmond said the organization purchased the lots from the city through a Request for Proposal bidding process for $2,500. It was valued at $57,000 and Richmond said GTC was the only bidder. The parcels are about two-thirds of an acre in sixe and are commercially zoned, she added

She said, “Acquiring our own land is a significant accomplishment for GTC. As owners, we’ll be able to plan long into the future for ways we can turn this plot of land into a central element of our community’s sustainability, vitality, beauty, and strength. It’s already providing opportunities for our youth participants to dream big about how GTC – and they – can create social change.”

Twenty-five young people ranging from 12 to 18 years old participate in the summer program that raises vegetables. The participants receive a stipend and the produce is sold at a stand on Hancock Street and at the Saturday Mason Square Farmer’s Market.

One of the parcels was the location of a former car lot that still had its small office building, although it was falling apart. She said the structure would be removed. Richmond said there were concerns that there might be some ground contamination and soil tests will be undertaken.

She said the asphalt would not be completely removed, as it would provide a parking area, which is needed for volunteers and customers, as Walnut Street is so narrow. She said the plan would be to build a pavilion on the site that could be used as a garden stand, training and community events.

The other part of the parcels was “incredibly overgrown” and GTC started the clearing process with tree work.

GTC plans to begin planting a garden there next year.

“We’re going to creatively use our urban asphalt environment,” Richmond said.

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