1st-year garden at Westside Community Center greens up

       As the summer growing season comes into its own, the 74 raised beds at the Westside Community Center's garden are showing definite signs of greenery.

Working last week on a raised bed she rents in the Westside Community Center's garden, Elaine Smoot sets chicken wire in place for her peas to climb up. The photo looks south from Platte Avenue, also taking in the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile, which was on site in June to provide free dental care for low-income children. The unit will be back at the center Aug. 2, this time offering medical care for needy kids.
Westside Pioneer photo

       It's the first year for the garden, which was organized by Pikes Peak Urban Gardens (PPUG) in conjunction with the center. The raised beds filled with topsoil were created last fall as a result of a grant engineered by the center, other business donations and about 100 volunteer builders.
       Each bed has since been rented for the summer, with payments covering the cost of city-provided water. Other improvements in the garden have included a fence around the garden to address security and wildlife issues.
       The site is what used to be the playground area of Buena Vista Elementary (which relocated elsewhere on the Westside after 2009).
       The garden's success “is all due to people taking ownership,” said Larry Stebbins, head of PPUG, referring to the individual plot renters. “We did it right, with a good partnership and use of resources, and the raised beds are as good as it gets. But they're only as good as the people using them.”
       Plot renters agree to donate 10 percent of their produce to the Care & Share food pantry.
       Westside CARES, which has an emergency pantry of its own inside the Community Center, is gardening in two of the Community Center's raised beds, using them to grow food for its pantry
       The nonprofit PPUG has started community gardens in different parts of the city, including the 2800 block of Pikes Peak Avenue and Vermijo Park.

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