TRAVERSE CITY — A community garden is taking root in the Township of East Bay. The Township Parks Commission proposes dedicating space adjacent to City Hall to cultivate food, learning, and social connection.
“COVID has taught us that many people appreciate shared outdoor spaces,” Township Supervisor Beth Friend said. “We looked at several properties and decided on the space between the East Bay branch library and the town hall.”
The community garden concept outlined in the township’s 2019-2023 Parks and Recreation Plan includes 11 raised beds, additional fenced planting areas and a storage shed. The estimated cost of $32,200 covers the purchase of gardening equipment and the installation of walkways.
Ideas for using the garden continue to grow.
“It’s a lovely space for a walk of stories to read as you go and to enjoy some quiet time,” said East Bay Branch Librarian Chantel Lentz, a member of the Commission of parks. “It’s a different way to enjoy a book.”
Lentz, a member of the Parks Commission’s Gardens Subcommittee, said the library wants to increase public participation by creating a seed library for patrons to interact with other gardeners. She would also like to initiate the loan of gardening tools in the Traverse District Library’s Object Library.
As a community education hub for all ages, the garden vision proposes to serve students attending the four surrounding schools.
Other young people who could benefit from the garden include Girl Scouts/Scouts and home-schooled students.
The Parks Commission also has the idea of adding a small pavilion to the garden space where classes, workshops, story-time programs, book clubs and other events could take place.
“We have limited space, but we like to do programs outside,” Lentz said.
The proposed community garden would also increase opportunities for active outdoor experiences and to glean the benefits of spending time in the fresh air.
“Most people like to get out and see what the possibilities are of what can grow,” said Susan LaRose, township parks commissioner and MSU Extension master gardener-in-training. “It’s great for releasing stress, looking at the beauty of the garden and seeing the results – the good and the bad.”
LaRose, a member of the garden subcommittee, brings an understanding of soil, ground and surface water science and garden design principles to the current project.
Garden user and fee details are under discussion.
“My dream and my hope is that the fees will be minimal, if any at all,” LaRose said.
A friend reports that sources of funding for community gardens are currently being explored. They include the township’s general fund, state and federal sources, grants and donations from foundations.
The Parks Commission consulted with local educators, librarians, residents, and food and agricultural organizations in the planning and design of the garden. Public feedback via an online survey was offered by people living, working and playing in East Bay Township. Panel members will work with community stakeholders to incorporate public input into the project design.
Final recommendations regarding funding, maintenance and governance will be presented to East Bay Township Council by fall 2022.
The township is accepting public comments on the garden plan until April 30 at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/ebtgarden.
Editor’s Note: This story was updated 4/28/22 to correct a typo in Susan LaRose’s name.