TRAVERSE CITY — A community garden is taking root at East Bay Township. The Township Parks Commission proposes dedicating a space adjacent to the Township Hall for cultivating food, learning and social connections.
“COVID has taught us that many people enjoy shared outdoor space,” said Township Supervisor Beth Friend. “We looked at several properties and decided on the space between East Bay Branch Library and the Township Hall.”
The community garden concept outlined in the township’s 2019-2023 Parks and Recreation Plan features 11 raised beds, additional in-ground fenced planting areas and a storage shed. The estimated $32,200 cost covers the purchase of gardening equipment and walkway installation.
Ideas for garden use continue to grow.
“It’s a beautiful space for a read-as-you-go Story Walk and to enjoy a peaceful moment,” said East Bay Branch librarian Chantel Lentz, a Parks Commission member. “It’s a different way to enjoy a book.”
Lentz, a member of the Parks Commission garden subcommittee, said the library would like to enhance public involvement by creating a seed library for patrons to exchange with fellow gardeners. She would also like to initiate garden tool lending into the Traverse Area District Library’s Library of Things.
As a community education hub for all ages, the garden vision proposes serving students attending the surrounding four schools.
Other youth potentially benefiting from the garden include Girl Scouts/Boy Scouts and homeschooled students.
The Parks Commission is also hatching the idea of adding a small pavilion to the garden space where classes, workshops, story hour programs, book clubs and other events could take place.
“We have limited space, but we love to do programs outdoors,” Lentz said.
The proposed community garden would also increase opportunity for active outdoor experiences and for gleaning the benefits of spending time in the fresh air.
“Most people enjoy getting outside and seeing 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 garden beauty and seeing results – the good and bad.”
LaRose, a member of the garden subcommittee brings to the unfolding project an understanding of soil, ground and surface water science and garden design principles.
Garden user and fee details are under discussion.
“My dream and hope are that fees will be minimal, if anything at all,” LaRose said.
Friend reports community garden funding sources are currently being explored. They include the Township General Fund, state and federal sources, foundation grants and donations.
The Parks Commission consulted local educators, librarians, residents and food and farming organizations for the garden planning and design. Public comments via an online survey were offered by individuals living, working and playing in East Bay Township. Commission members will collaborate with community stakeholders to incorporate the public input into project design.
Final recommendations regarding funding, maintenance and governance will be made to the East Bay Township Board by fall 2022.
The Township is accepting public comments pertaining to the garden plan through April 30 at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/ebtgarden.
Editor’s note: This story was updated 4/28/22 to fix a typo in Susan LaRose’s name.