New community gardens coming to Elgin

  • Gifford Park Association member Laura Knoerr sits on a raised garden bed prototype that will be one of 30 raised beds being created at Channing Street and Division Street in Elgin. This was a joint effort between the city and the Gifford Park Association.

      Gifford Park Association member Laura Knoerr sits on a raised garden bed prototype that will be one of 30 raised beds being created at Channing Street and Division Street in Elgin. This was a joint effort between the city and the Gifford Park Association. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 4/26/2019 9:39 PM

A new community garden with 30 raised beds is being created north of downtown Elgin, and so many neighborhood families are interested that there already is a waiting list.

The gardens will be off Channing and Division streets on a 3-acre site that used to hold the Channing YMCA and now belongs to the city.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The city council gave the thumbs-up to the plan earlier this week and the city plans to establish a lease for the property, at a nominal price, with the nonprofit Gifford Park Association, which will oversee the gardens.

Councilwoman Carol Rauschenberger called it "a great community building, good food-delivering activity."

"I think it's a good way to get your neighborhood together," Councilwoman Rose Martinez said.

The raised beds measuring 4 by 12 feet will be rented for a $20 fee for the season. Planting begins May 11, and clean-out will be Nov. 16, weather permitting.

The association did outreach in English and Spanish to spread the word in the neighborhood, and white, black and Latino families have signed up, Gifford Park Association member Colleen Anderson said.

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The project began last year when city staff members, at the direction of the city's sustainability commission, met with a group of volunteer master gardeners to discuss creating more community gardens in Elgin. Advocate Sherman Hospital in Elgin has a community garden, and the city leases space for a community garden run by the Boys & Girls Club of Elgin and a butterfly garden run by the Northeast Neighborhood Association.

Nine city properties, including parks and vacant land, were evaluated based on the neighborhood's need, the availability of a water source, and access to walking, biking and parking.

When approached with the idea, the Gifford Park Association was enthusiastic, association member Laura Knoerr told the city council.

"It's important to us because we feel it's an opportunity for community building," Knoerr said. "... It's an opportunity for community education, teaching the value of growing your own food, the value of pesticide-free produce, learning how to cultivate and harvest plants -- many young families with children have registered -- learning about good nutrition and teaching individual and civic responsibility."

The city took ownership of the land after a developer abandoned plans to build houses there in the wake of the 2008 economic recession.

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