Montford Community Garden prepares for first season
As winter weather sets in, members of the Montford Community Garden Association are busy preparing to open their new garden on a vacant lot at the corner of Montford and Windsor roads.
"Now is the time to get everything in place," said Pat Byrne, association president and resident of nearby Englewood Road. "When the weather warms up we need to be ready to hit the ground running."
The Montford group formed last spring, following the demolition of a rundown house on the property by the Cuyahoga County Land Reutilization Corporation, commonly known as the Cuyahoga Land Bank.
About 30 residents showed up for the first meeting and were enthusiastic about creating an attractive new community garden close to home. The group selected officers and assigned members to work on club rules, sources for supplies, fundraising strategies, and communication with the city. The group created a website, www.montfordcommunitygarden.org, and arranged for the Ohio State University (OSU) Extension to collect soil samples for testing.
"There are no negatives in a project like this," said group member Cindy Bartels, who lives on Englewood Road. "Participating in a community garden gets you out in the sun and air, gives you healthier meals, gets you involved in the community, and even makes you happy when it rains." She noted that the garden is another step toward building a stronger community, commenting, "Shared spaces bring people together and a shared local space will bring a neighborhood together."
Mary Weems, a homeowner on Northhampton Road, agrees. "What I hope will be accomplished is coming together as a community," she said. "I've been enjoying getting to know people who live around here." Weems is enthusiastic about making fresh food more available to the neighborhood. "A lot of what you buy in the stores comes from a long way away," she said. "It's much better to produce local food, and a community garden is a wonderful way to bring more fresh produce into the area."
In addition to providing gardening space to participating members, the group expects to benefit neighbors in other ways. "We hope to section off part of the space as a community garden that anyone can use," said Bartels. "So you can do a little gardening and pick a tomato without committing your summer to it. Even nongardeners can stop by and smell the flowers." The group plans to donate excess produce to local foodbanks.
Community gardens are now permitted in residential zones in Cleveland Heights pursuant to amendments to the city zoning ordinance approved last May. After discussions with the city, title to the lot at Montford and Windsor roads was transferred from the Cuyahoga Land Bank to the city so that the Montford group could apply to the city for permission to operate a community garden there. The Montford group is the first to work with the city on a new community garden pursuant to the amended ordinance.
Fundraising is essential to establishing a new community garden. Start-up expenses include fencing, raised beds, soil, tools and other supplies. Garden participants will be expected to pay a fee to cover some of these costs, as well as water, which the city will provide through a metered tap to be installed at the site. The group is applying for start-up grants from the Fiskars Orange Thumb Project and the OSU Extension Suburban Community Garden Program. It also hopes to obtain donations from merchants and contributions from civic-minded residents who support the community garden movement.
To facilitate fundraising for the Montford garden, the nonprofit organization FutureHeights recently agreed to act as fiscal agent for the association, an arrangement that will allow contributors to take a tax deduction. "FutureHeights has been pleased to serve as fiscal agent on several occasions to support nonprofit groups whose activities further our mission of community development and citizen engagement," said Deanna Bremer Fisher, executive director. "As an organization we seek to promote productive uses of vacant lots, and we support community gardens as a tremendous community resource that helps strengthen our neighborhoods."
For more information about the Montford Community Garden, contact Pat Byrne, president, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 330-612-3823.
Jeff Coryell, a former lawyer, is an artist, community volunteer, and member of the FutureHeights Board of Directors.