Community garden idea close to fruition at Granite Creek Park
PRESCOTT - After growing up in Denver, Hannah Trujillo was familiar with community gardens.
She had lived in the midst of the Denver Urban Gardens - a program that offers community plots at dozens of locations throughout the city.
"They're really big and very well organized," Trujillo, one of the organizers of a recent push to bring a community garden to Prescott, said of the gardens in her hometown.
When Trujillo moved to Prescott to attend Prescott College several years ago, she said, "I always wondered where Prescott's community garden was."
She was not the only person who felt the absence of community gardening in Prescott.
The question has come up occasionally through the years. The city even included a spot for a community garden in its original master plan for Willow Lake park improvements back in the late 1990s. The issue re-emerged in early 2010, when garden advocates suggested a spot at the city-owned rodeo grounds.
But the concept has always encountered obstacles. In the case of the rodeo grounds site, officials determined that too many utilities in the area made the garden idea unfeasible.
Now, an effort is under way that appears to be meeting the challenges.
Colleen Sorensen, president of the Prescott Community Gardens, appeared before the Prescott City Council last week to advocate for a lease for a 1/3 acre parcel of vacant land in Granite Creek Park, near the Greenways Trail, the Arizona Public Service (APS) yard and substation and the Sam Hill Warehouse.
The parcel would offer enough space for about 70 individual gardening plots of about 10 feet by 10 feet.
Sorensen and other garden organizers, including Trujillo, Ray Cage, and Joyce Koressel, met at the proposed garden site Friday afternoon to point out some of the location's advantages.
They foresee the parcel - now covered with grass, weeds, and small non-native elm trees - becoming a showcase for the community.
"The plan is for this garden to be beautiful," Sorensen told the City Council. "It will be very visible."
Trujillo said the 10-foot-by-10-foot plots would offer plenty of space for gardeners to succeed. "You can grow enough in a season for a family," she said of the plots. "We're going to be seeing a ton of food."
Central to the garden would be education, Sorensen said, noting that the garden likely would have master gardeners on hand to help beginners with the basics.
And she told the City Council that garden organizers hope eventually to use rainwater harvesting to water the garden, although it initially would use water from the city's system.
After the Prescott City Council appeared amenable to a several-year lease, the garden organizers are hopeful that the kick-off is imminent.
"It looks like we're real close now," Koressel said.
Added Sorensen: "If everything goes right and the council gives us the thumbs-up, we would like to start in May."
The council directed city staff to develop a proposed lease, which would go back to the council at a future meeting.
The garden likely would begin with about 20 plots in the first year, Sorensen said, with the additional 50 being added in coming years.
Before any gardening can begin at the site, however, the group would have to make a number of improvements. Topping the list of tasks would be the installation of fencing that would keep out rabbits and other wildlife.
The group also must get a water source to the site and decide how the gardeners would distribute the water to their individual plots. The garden would pay for the improvements and the water supply.
Sorensen estimates the cost of the improvements at about $9,000.
Other details are still to come as well, including a decision on the cost for renting a plot (Sorensen suggested $60-per-plot for the season), landscaping, and developing stable growing beds.
Although the parcel is the site of previous contamination from an early-1900s gas manufacturing plant that left a residue called lampblack, the garden organizers emphasized that APS conducted a months-long remediation at the site in 2000 to rid the area of the contaminants.
"They took out 100,000 tons of soil and replaced it with Willow Lake soil," Sorensen said of the site.
To be certain, garden organizers say, the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality recently conducted tests on the soil and found it to be free of contaminants.