Sustainable Heights Network promotes community gardens
The Sustainable Heights Network—an informal group created to connect people and ideas to help build a more sustainable future for the community—has launched an initiative to facilitate community gardening. Goals include locating sites that could be used for community gardens, providing a mechanism for people interested in community gardening to connect with one another, and accessing resources that support new community gardens.
“The community gardening program would be a central area for information for, and participation by, residents,” said Sarah Wean, Sustainable Heights Network Steering Committee member. “We want to be of assistance in providing the networking opportunities that can support a grassroots community program.”
An informational meeting about the Sustainable Heights Network’s community gardening initiative is planned for 7 p.m., Jan. 24, at the Lee Road Library. Everyone interested in seeing community gardening thrive in the Heights is encouraged to attend.
Community gardens are a tremendous asset to the community. They provide an opportunity for those who either cannot garden at home or desire additional or better garden space, and they promote sustainable practices, such as food waste recycling and local food production. In addition, community gardens improve local food security by enabling residents to grow their own food or to donate what they have grown for hunger relief. They provide an engaging and educational activity for youths, and they enhance the appeal of the neighborhoods in which they are situated. Gardens also provide social benefits by bringing residents together and encouraging healthy recreation.
At Cleveland Heights’s Canterbury School Garden, individual plots measure 10 feet by 50 feet, and a $20 annual fee covers the cost of water. One plot is reserved for growing produce for the Cleveland Foodbank and other hunger relief programs.
Interest in community gardening runs high in the Heights, and existing community gardens in the area all have waiting lists. These established gardens include the Canterbury and Oxford school gardens (both started as Vctory Gardens during World War II), Hampshire Road Garden, and Fairfax School Garden. This past year, University Heights launched the Taylor Road Learning Gardens near the Delisle Center on South Taylor Road.
Potential locations for new community gardens might include schools, churches and synagogues, and vacant lots. (Even if a vacant lot appears to be abandoned, an agreement must be formalized with the landowner—whether the city or some other public or private owner—before establishing a garden.) Suitability of locations for community gardens depends on factors such as sun exposure, water access, slope, drainage, fencing, and soil conditions.
One important resource for starting new community gardens is the Urban Agriculture Program of the Ohio State University Extension. Program coordinators Amanda Block and Nicole Wright gave a presentation about the program at the Lee Road Library on Dec. 5. The program provides educational and technical assistance to new community gardens, including soil testing, site visits and one-on-one advice, print and Internet resources, and networking and event opportunities. It also provides a community gardener training program and makes mini-grants for start-up materials and services, available through a competitive bidding process. More information is available online at http://cuyahoga.osu.edu.
Jeff Coryell is a visual artist, writer and former attorney. He was a candidate for Cleveland Heights City Council in 2011and a former president of the Cleveland Heights Democrats. He is a member of the Sustainable Heights Network and of the FutureHeights Board of Directors.