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Sun, Aug. 18

Community garden to bloom in Granite Creek Park

PRESCOTT - Within weeks, organizers of the Prescott Community Gardens group hope to be working in the soil at a new gardening spot in Granite Creek Park.

On Tuesday, a five-year lease for a 1/3-acre parcel of land near the park's Greenways Trail got unanimous approval of the Prescott City Council.

That sets the stage for a community garden that ultimately will feature 70 individual 10-foot by 10-foot plots, after beginning with about 20 plots the first year.

Colleen Sorensen, president of the Prescott Community Gardens, said Thursday that the group still is awaiting a final contract from the city. As soon as the contract is signed, Sorensen said work should get under way on the numerous tasks that have to occur before the growing begins.

"We have a lot of work ahead of us," Sorensen said. "But it's the fun stuff."

For instance, the group still must determine how best to build the beds for growing, as well as a number of details for management of the garden. A design meeting is expected within the next week or so to decide some of the issues.

"I would like to be working (in the garden) in May," Sorensen said, adding that the organization hopes to have plots available for individual gardeners by later this spring.

The lease calls for three years during which the pact can be cancelled only "for cause" (violation of the terms). For the next two years, either side could cancel without cause, with a 90-day notice, after mediation.

While City Council members approved the lease, some questions arose about how the organization would deal with potential problems.

Councilman John Hanna - although he said he liked the garden idea - raised concerns about the location.

"The biggest problem I have is what's going to happen when the homeless start hanging out there, sleeping there?" Hanna asked "Is that a cause to cancel the lease?"

City Attorney Gary Kidd responded: "I don't think so. 'Cause' would be failure to pay the lease, parking problems, or failure to comply with city code or city park regulations."

Councilwoman Tammy Linn agreed that the city should take steps more steps to "get a handle" on the homeless issue in the Granite Creek area. And, while she called the garden a "great idea," Linn said she wanted to "make sure we cross our t's and dot our i's" concerning details such as insurance and parking.

Parks and Recreation Director Debbie Horton said the group plans to primarily use the public parking lot on Montezuma Street, which is adjacent to the Greenways trailhead.

Other council members maintained that the garden would bring attention to an otherwise unmaintained area.

"It's sort of a blighted piece of property with no use," Councilman Jim Lamerson said. "I think this is a good start for other things that might happen in the future."

And Councilwoman Lora Lopas suggested that having the gardeners in the area could improve the problem with vagrants.

"As soon as (the garden) starts getting people in there, it's self-policed," Lopas said, adding, "I'm excited to see this come to fruition, finally."

Added Mayor Marlin Kuykendall: "Anything that goes in there is an improvement."

The Prescott Community Gardens continues to solicit donations to cover the approximately $9,000 in improvements that will be necessary for the project.

More information about the garden is available by emailing contact@prescottcommunitygardens.org.

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