Saturday, October 18, 2003

Garden grows into community project

Two friends get an idea for a Silverton lot and it blossoms into a beautiful thing

By Beth Burwinkel / Enquirer contributor

[IMAGE] Louise Garr (left) and Nancy Kincaid had the idea for a community garden on Silverton Avenue.
(Ernest Coleman photo)
| ZOOM |
Nancy Kincaid and Louise Garr are friends who enjoy walking through Silverton. One day last fall when they passed a vacant lot on Silverton Avenue, Kincaid had an idea.

"I said to Louise, 'You know what, that would make a wonderful, wonderful community garden,' " Kincaid recalls. Garr agreed and the women set out to make the garden a reality.

One year later, the lot has six raised beds and room for more. A vine climbs over an arch at the entrance. Mums and blue salvia bloom in the two front beds, which also contain a variety of other flowers, shrubs and a weeping cherry tree. Near the center of the garden, two new benches face a display of planting barrels. Pumpkins and hay bales are arranged nearby.

"Now people go by and they stop," Garr says. "They want to know what's going on. It's really nice. We've got many people involved and we want to get even more."

"What I'm most proud of is how much work we've done in a short time and the devotion of the people who worked here," Kincaid says.

Since the lot is owned by the city, Kincaid met with Silverton officials early on. They embraced the idea, so she took it to Block Watch meetings.

"Once we got together, it just seemed like help has come out of the woodwork," Kincaid says.

Over the winter, representatives from the Silverton garden group attended community garden development training offered by the Civic Garden Center of Greater Cincinnati (CGC). The Silverton garden is one of 60 in Greater Cincinnati that the Civic Garden Center has helped start, says Mary Ann Westendorf, CGC neighborhood gardens coordinator.

"It has happened faster than any project I've been involved with in the past," Westendorf says of the Silverton garden.

The garden received money and supplies from the city, organizations and individuals. City crews delivered wood chips and shrubs transplanted from another location. A Block Watch group donated money. Businesses provided plants and loaned tools. A neighbor provided water. Residents donated plants from their yards.

More than a dozen people, teenagers to senior citizens, have worked on the garden.

"We have heard some positive feedback," says City Manager Mark Wendling. "I know the group has worked hard to get this garden together."

In the spring Kincaid hopes to sponsor a dance to raise money for the garden. Volunteers also want to establish a children's garden.

"Nothing like this is ever finished," Kincaid said. "It's always ongoing."

Kincaid hopes the garden provides an opportunity for people who live in apartments to work with the soil. She also wants it to become a place where people with disabilities can garden.

Kincaid's husband, Donald, assembled a display of half barrels at the center of the garden. The barrels are high enough so people can sit and plant. Kincaid would like to replace the garden's wood chip path with pavers to make it easier for people with disabilities to get into the garden.

"People who feel like they want to work in the soil can do what they want" here, Kincaid says. "They don't have to get permission. They don't have to pay anything ...

"My goals are just to keep up with it and have more and more people join in. A lady asked if she could plant vegetables (in the garden) in the spring. I told her to go for it."

Garr hopes the garden becomes a neighborhood gathering place. She would like to see an annual event - perhaps a cookout - in the garden.

"It's a place to meet the kids, the grandparents, whoever lives there," Garr said. "We've met a lot of people since we've been involved in this."


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