Community Center garden plans form at last minute

       A garden is about to take shape at the Westside Community Center.
       One had been proposed earlier this year, but plans did not come together and until very recently funding did not appear to be available for the 2011 season either, according to Larry Stebbins, head of Pikes Peak Urban Gardens.

Mike Gale (red shirt) and Lisa Redfield (green shirt, on stage) work with kids Oct. 9 during the free Recreational Bike and Tire Repair offered every second Saturday in the Westside Community Center gym.
Westside Pioneer photo

       That's when he had a conversation with Dick Siever, director of the center. PPUG has an arrangement with the city, not the center, for overseeing any garden at Westside. However, Siever also has supported the idea as a project that would “add some activity to the center,” as he phrased it this week.
       The next thing Stebbins knew, plans were coming together for about $10,000 worth of materials, and this Saturday, Oct. 16, Siever said he expects about 120 volunteers to show up at the center to help Stebbins pull it all together.
       “He's a professional. He's forgotten more about gardening than I ever knew,” Siever said.
       Asked about the origin of the funding, he said that in recent months he had talked to certain individuals who had liked the idea of a garden on the site. When Siever told them about the funding shortfall recently, those people stepped forward with donations..
       “My head's still spinning,” Stebbins said. “If you would have told me this a month ago, I would have said you're crazy. But I guess it's hard to keep down a good project.”
       The location will be the middle part of what used to be the playground when the property was Buena Vista Elemementary.
       Stebbins said he has mapped out a plan for 72 garden beds, 4-by-8-foot in size, with 3-foot pathways between them. Most will be 24 inches high, with six to eight of them 30 inches so that people with disabilities can garden in them.
       Similar to the set-up that has proven successful at two other Westside community gardens (in the 2800 block of Pikes Peak Avenue and in Vermijo Park), Stebbins said the spaces will be leased by individuals. The lease payments will cover the cost of the water provided by the city. However, “scholarships” will be available to people who want to garden and can't afford to lease, he said; also, 10 percent of the food that's grown in the garden will be designated for the Westside CARES pantry that's been inside the community center since last spring.
       The volunteers are slated to work at the center from about 8 a.m. to noon Oct. 16. Work will include building the bed boxes from pine boards and smoothing in the soil that's being delivered to the site, Stebbins said. The idea is that the soil will mature through the winter, and as a result be more amenable to growing activities in the spring.
       Not all the garden prep work will be done Oct. 16. Work postponed till spring will include installing the water connection to the garden and putting up a fence - probably chain link, like at Vermijo - around it.

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