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updated: 4/4/2013 10:34 AM

Aurora set to go greener with more community gardens

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  • Three vacant lots in Aurora are expected to be converted into community gardens this summer to produce fresh produce.

    Three vacant lots in Aurora are expected to be converted into community gardens this summer to produce fresh produce.
    Daily Herald file photo


A few vacant lots in Aurora should be getting greener this summer when they're turned into community gardens.

The city council gave preliminary approval Tuesday night to using a $10,000 grant from the Community Foundation of the Fox Valley to set up gardens on three vacant city-owned lots and begin development of a citywide garden network.

The properties set to become green spaces are at 169 and 171 South LaSalle St. and 701 Claim St. and organizations including the McCarty Burlington Neighborhood Group, Family Focus, Mission Possible and Community Christian Church will help maintain the vegetable growing areas once they're planted.

Several aldermen said they support the initiative because they have seen successful community gardens get started in their areas.

In Aldermen Rick Mervine and Lynda Elmore's wards on the far east side, the Let's Get Growing Community Gardens of the South East Villages Neighborhood is about to enter its fourth year.

Mervine said organizers only have encountered slight problems since getting started at Gombert and Georgetown elementary schools. Posting signs has dealt with the problem of people stealing the gardeners' produce, and Mervine said the gardening project has provided benefits in health and neighborhood investment.

"It builds community, it builds neighborhoods and it's been very valuable," he said about Let's Get Growing, which is offering 10-by-10-foot plots for those who apply at or by calling (630) 701-7864.

Alderman Scheketa Hart-Burns said a couple community gardens are growing in her ward as well, including one at a property formerly used as a drug house in the 1990s. She said participants have gained a chance to eat fresh vegetables and learn tips about how to prepare them without adding less healthful ingredients.

"It pays off to help people get away from red meat," Hart-Burns said. "It works out really good."

Another community garden sits at the former Fred Rodgers Community Center, which now houses East Aurora School District 131's magnet academy, said Dan Barreiro, chief community services officer.

The gardens across the city all are organized by neighborhood volunteers, but some of the grant money will be used to connect them and help them use resources available through the professional growers at the Aurora Farmers Market, he said.

Produce grown at the new gardens will be divided among the volunteer groups and individuals who run them, with extra possibly going to local food pantries, Barreiro said.

The city council is expected to approve the use of grant funding to create the new gardens and develop the garden network at its next meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 9, in city hall, 44 E. Downer Place.

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