Wabash Park may have community garden

By: Linda Shepard | Rochester Post | Published February 20, 2013

ROCHESTER HILLS — A new community garden has been proposed for Wabash Park, located west of Rochester Road and south of Auburn Road.

City officials hope to have the organic garden ready for planting by Memorial Day. They’re proposing 108 4-by-4-foot beds in a 100-by-90-foot area of the park. Individual beds would be rented for a yet-to-be determined yearly price. 

Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnet said the proposal was the result of resident interest.

“Seniors have been asking me when Rochester Hills would have a community garden. The Rochester Hills Youth Council has been quite passionate about this, as well.”

Community gardens provide an area for residents to cultivate plants, vegetables and fruits to add nutrition, physical activity, community engagement, safety and economic vitality to a neighborhood, Barnett said. Residents would be prohibited from selling produce from the community garden.

Wabash Park — which is the city’s oldest park — was chosen for its location and topography.

“You want a park that is open, flat and accessible,” Barnett said. “It has a parking lot and a playground. It is centrally located.”

The park is near the city’s two largest apartment and it condominium complexes, and would provide those residents with gardening space, he said.

The site would include a 7-and-a-half-foot deer fence and water access. Gardening experts at Dinosaur Hill Nature Preserve — which currently partners with Rochester on that city’s community garden — would serve as a partner for the Wabash Park garden.

Barnett requested $30,000 in city funds for phase one startup costs for the new community garden. He estimated yearly costs, for water and maintenance, would run between $3,000 and $5,000.

Funding for the garden could also be supplemented by grants, said Tara Presta, chief assistant to the mayor.

“We have a commitment from Recyclebank for $2,500,” Presta said. “We’ve applied for several grants.” Local garden groups, the Rochester Hills Youth Council and the Rochester Rotary have also indicated interest in supporting the garden, she said.

Several residents and City Council members opposed the small size of the proposed garden plots.

“The 4-foot-by-4-foot plots are mostly used in urban communities,” said Council member Ravi Yalamanchi. “I think we should look at 8-foot-by-8-foot plots.”

Rochester Hills Parks Director Mike Hartner said the 4-by-4-foot raised beds “take about 20 percent of the space of a much bigger garden,” and would increase the number of plots available to residents.  

By a unanimous vote Feb. 11, the Rochester City Council approved preliminary plans for the new community garden. The matter will come before the Council again in March for final approval.

“The details can be worked out,” Council member Michael Webber said. “I see it as a true community benefit. I think it will be something the community will embrace and grow from.”