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De Pere council will hear on community garden program

By Lee Reinsch

DE PERE – It may be a long row to hoe, but if the Common Council springs for it, De Pere may soon have its own community gardens.

At its most recent meeting, the De Pere Board of Park Commissioners heard what seems like it might be a perfect plan for community growth.

The Brown County Extension has an established community gardens program in place and is willing to administer an expansion to De Pere.

The City of De Pere has land available that would be suitable for use as community garden plots.

Moreover, the local Lions Club wants to fund it.

The land being eyed is off the Lions Trailside Park area. It’s got parking area for about 20 to 25 cars, so that’s the number of garden plots in mind.

The area doesn’t have water hook up, but the Extension would put up a water tower specifically for the community gardens.

It’s also got a pH issue, but that can be remedied, according to De Pere Director of Parks, Recreation and Forestry, Marty Kosobucki.

The intention, if the Common Council agrees, would be to run a pilot garden program on De Pere’s east side and then explore expanding to one on the west side if all goes well.

Margaret Franchino, coordinator of the Brown County Extension Community Gardens Program, said that the program can be helpful to apartment dwellers and those who don’t have adequate yard space.

“The Community Gardens Program is a more than 20-year-old program to dedicated empowering people to grow their own food, increasing food security in Brown County,” Franchino said.

Participants pay from $10 to $45 for the growing season, and about 70 percent of them are of low or moderate income.

They’re responsible for planting, maintaining, harvesting and, of course, using or selling the produce once harvested.

“We have 10 locations throughout the community, but none in De Pere,” she said, adding that the program has received requests from De Pere residents to expand to the city, and that there has been demand for another four acres’ worth of plots for the current 10 sites.

Some 340 plots comprise the 10 sites. Some have raised beds, while others have plowed plots. Franchino said she’s seen more demand for plowed plots than raised beds.

Franchino cited the positive effects of gardening as an activity for its exercise benefits, reducing stress and meeting other people in the community, and of eating a diet based on fresh local food.

“It’s a multifaceted program that can benefit people from all walks of life,” she said.

Lions Club member Abbey Hill appeared with Franchino to support the effort.

Hill said she’d serve as the club’s liaison to the garden program, providing updates, leading volunteer work and fundraising efforts.

The board voted to forward the matter to the City Attorney’s office for an agreement to be drawn up before going to the Common Council for the final word.

Kosobucki said there’s long been talk of getting the community gardens program started in De Pere, but it’s never come to fruition. He said he believes now is the time to get a plan into motion.

When asked if the community gardens would affect the sledding hill at all, Kosobucki said he recommended they go with plowed plots rather than raised beds for that very reason.

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