Gauging interest for a community garden at Gorgas Park

Calling all green thumbs.

Members of the Friends of Gorgas Park are exploring the idea of starting up a community garden in the Roxborough park on Ridge Ave. 

It’s an idea that, they say, would serve neighborhood interests, help with a local storm water issue and help to put Gorgas Park on the map.

John Boyce, president of the Friends, said the park has a history of being forgotten and neglected. He sees this as a way for the community to maintain interest in a neighborhood green space and keep the park alive.

“The worst thing for a public space is when people abandon it,” he said. “And that’s the story of Gorgas from after World War II to the mid-90s.”

Boyce said the park already has a Garden Club, which has taken first place the past two years in the Pennsylvania Horticulture Society’s citywide garden contest, but participation is low and a community garden may be just what the park needs to get more people involved.

Tim Davis, communications director for the Friends, said he wants to get people invested in the park.

“If people, in a sense, own or rent a tiny piece of that park for a season, that will make them more engaged in the look of the park,” he said. “We’ve been dreaming big lately because the water department has a big grant opportunity for storm water management.”

At the end of March, Davis said, the Friends applied for $1.5 million with the Water Department’s storm water grant.

They hope to use that money to solve a drainage issue that, they say, essentially sends storm water from Roxborough High School’s parking lot into the softball field, creating 10-inch trenches in the event of a storm.

The group expects to hear about the status of its grant application by July 1. If the grant is awarded, a portion of those funds will go towards a community garden. But the money won’t come in time for the start of this gardening season.

Plans are still in the preliminary stages, but plots in the community garden will likely be rented out to interested individuals for about $30 a season. Money from the rental fee will go back into the garden in the form of soil and tools, as well as some barbecues in the park. And, similar to other community gardens, renters would be required to spend a couple of workdays maintaining the park.

“We’re not sure what the interest will be,” said Boyce. “But throughout the city, there’s a lot of community gardens.”

Boyce and Davis have done their homework, visiting a few popular plots and finding out how those gardens have grown and flourished.

The interest in community gardens in Roxborough comes from a different angle than neighbors of areas like Northern Liberties and the Schuykill River Park, Davis said. Even though many Roxborough residents already have their own yards, Davis cites a community plot near Monastery Ave. that has a waiting list. He attributes the wait to neighbors wanting to socially interact and work together.

The park is already home to a teen garden plot for North Light Community Center.

Karen Smith, director of marketing and communications at the North Light Community Center, said she thinks more plots around the Teens 4 Good garden is a good idea.

“Community gardens are becoming more and more popular as people realize the importance of fresh local food,” she said. “There’s plenty of room for gardens all over the park. It’s a beautiful park.”

Smith said in the five years the Teens 4 Good plot has been at the park, it has not only produced a good learning opportunity for kids, but a quality product.

“Last year the kids grew garlic out of the beds,” Smith said. “It was great, you can’t get garlic fresher than that.”

To secure a spot in the garden, visit gorgaspark.com

What are your thoughts on a community garden at Gorgas Park? Leave your comments in the section below. 

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