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updated: 1/24/2011 6:28 PM

ComEd re-evaluating fate of Des Plaines, Mount Prospect garden plots

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  • Harshad Patel of Mount Prospect carries bags filled with beans harvested from his plots at the Des Plaines community garden last summer.

      Harshad Patel of Mount Prospect carries bags filled with beans harvested from his plots at the Des Plaines community garden last summer.
    MADHU KRISHNAMURTHY | Staff Photographer


ComEd is reconsidering its decision to eliminate the community garden plots that have been cultivated beneath power lines in Des Plaines and Mount Prospect for decades.

A ComEd spokeswoman confirmed Monday the energy provider has been in talks with Des Plaines and Mount Prospect park districts over the past several months.

The 136 plots in Des Plaines lie on an acre east of Westgate Road, just north of Terrace Elementary School, with two giant transmission towers looming above.

Mount Prospect Park District runs 27 such plots -- each 25 square feet -- on four-tenths of an acre east of Busse Road and west of Linneman Road, under ComEd power lines not mentioned in any lease agreement.

Like Des Plaines, those plots have been around for roughly 30 years.

ComEd announced last spring it would be getting rid of both garden plots after a final fall harvest last year.

But after park district officials appealed, ComEd decided to meet with the communities "to understand their concerns," spokeswoman Alicia Zatkowski said.

"We are continuing to evaluate the question of the garden plots, while at the same time making sure that the transmission corridors are maintained for safety and clear access for employees to get to the equipment with the ultimate goal of making sure reliability of power is maintained," she added.

Zatkowski could not say when a decision may be forthcoming.

Des Plaines Park District officials hope their popular Community Organic Garden Program, which gets sold out each year and usually has a waiting list of people wanting to use the plots, can continue this spring.

"We are optimistic and hopeful that there could be a positive resolution," said Gayle Mountcastle, Des Plaines Park District's superintendent of recreation.

The park district has administered the program since 1978. The plots, planted in May, are usually cleared by park district maintenance staff in October, at the end of each summer harvest.

Residents have used the plots to grow a variety of produce -- tomatoes, corn, cabbage, beans, squash, eggplant, chili peppers, herbs and spices -- and flowering plants fed by two ground-level water tanks supplied by the Des Plaines Park District.

Though planting doesn't begin until May/June, the park district usually begins registering gardeners for the season about this time of year, which will have to be pushed back.

"It's all up in the air at this point," Mountcastle said.

Mount Prospect Park District Director of Parks and Planning Lou Ennesser could not be reached Monday.

ComEd has been phasing out similar gardens in other communities over the years as leases expired.

Yet, with more than 5,500 miles of ComEd transmission line right-of-way throughout northern Illinois, the utility giant concedes there could be other garden plots out there it knows nothing about.