Prep work almost done at 2 gardens

       Two future community gardens on the Westside are on the verge of breaking ground.

Karen Fleming (left) and Sherry Bennett attach surveyor's tape along the boundary of the planned Westside Agricultural Learning Center (WALC) garden outside the Westside Community Center (rear).
Westside Pioneer photo

       According to Karen Fleming and Sherry Bennett at the Westside Center garden and Larry Stebbins at the Vermijo Park garden, both areas should start showing signs of life by the third week in March, in terms of fencing and planting preparation.
       Both locations, each on city land and about a quarter-acre in size, still have a few openings for people who want to rent plots for growing things this summer.
       The garden outside the Westside Center at 1628 W. Bijou St. appears to have the greater need of assistance. “We're looking for used chain link fencing, boards, soil amendments [horse, cow or llama manure] and anybody who would want to help us,” Bennett said. “Our philosophy is to be as green as possible and use local recycled materials.”
       To help that situation, the two volunteers - whose group is called the Westside Agricultural Learning Center (WALC) - are organizing events at the center in March. The first will be a WALC meeting Wednesday, March 10 at 6 p.m. Included will be a discussion of the summer plans as well as a chance for people to sign up for a plot, Fleming said.
       On Friday, March 12 at 1 p.m., people are welcome to drop by the center for the filming of a YouTube video in which various participants will dress up as sunflowers, butterflies, frogs and other outdoor creatures to “celebrate the beginning of spring and our garden,” Fleming said. In the last scene of the movie, weather permitting, anyone on hand can get into the picture with the costumed people, she said (though release forms are needed for children).
       WALC's Spring Sunflower Festival is scheduled Saturday, March 20 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the center, showcasing some of the Westside Center's activities as part of a fundraiser to keep the facility operational. City Parks, which owns the center, has told WALC the garden will not be affected even if the center closes. City funding for the center has only been provided through March 31 (see story on Page 1), but WALC would like to keep the center alive to allow “cross-cultural” efforts with its art-related programs.

Some future garden-area stepping stones that Bennett, Fleming and center students created.
Westside Pioneer photo

       Financially, Vermijo is sitting pretty, thanks to a grant obtained by Pikes Peak Urban Gardens (PPUG) that covers essentially all the costs except the water bills. “We got the grant through Care & Share and the Colorado Home and Garden Show,” said PPUG co-founder Larry Stebbins, noting that the purpose of the grant was “to help more people eat locally grown food.”
       The Vermijo garden, which is off Vermijo and 26th streets, will be located in a large, circular, open area west of the baseball diamond.
       As it did last summer with the Old Colorado City Community Garden on Pikes Peak Avenue, PPUG is doing the work necessary to get the Vermijo garden started, with the hope of eventually handing it off to an independent group. “We're working like crazy behind the scenes,” Stebbins said. “By the first of April, we should have nicely tilled soil with a fence around it. That's our timeline, but Mother Nature may have other ideas.”
       Plots at Vermijo are all 20 by 20 feet, whereas those at Westside can be different sizes. Raised beds are being offered as options at both locales for people who may have difficulty bending over at ground level.
       Both gardens are likely to have waiting lists, although PPUG has other garden projects going this summer for those who don't want to wait, Stebbins said.
       For more information on the Vermijo garden or other PPUG efforts, e-mail or call Stebbins at 651-3416.
       For more information on the Westside garden, e-mail or phone Fleming at 761-8885.

Westside Pioneer article