Kennewick will have a community-owned vegetable garden this spring, thanks to the city and a handful of expert gardeners.
The garden is at Jay Perry Park at 1201 S. Newport St., behind Hawaiian Village Apartments off 10th Street. It's in a section of town Kennewick City Councilman Bob Parks described as "a rather blighted area," when he talked about the project at a council meeting earlier this week.
Washington State University Extension Master Gardeners of Benton and Franklin Counties became involved in the garden project last year after Master Gardener Bill Dixon learned the city planned on building community gardens.
"I contacted them and said, 'We're experienced gardeners. Can we help?' " he said.
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Maxine Wattam, director of the city's Parks and Recreation Department, and Greg Duffy, facilities grounds supervisor for the city, were quick to say yes.
"They began working the project with Bill Dixon and when I was hired seven months ago, that's when this project became mine and Bill's," said Broderick Gant, parks and maintenance coordinator for the city.
"Bill has a world of knowledge of gardening and is avid about community gardens. I don't know how we'd have done this without him," Gant said.
Gant said they looked at several sites in neighborhood parks throughout the city. They considered the population nearby and who would benefit. And was there water available? Sunlight? How far it would be from large tree roots.
"Jay Perry fit all the criteria," Gant said.
The site at Jay Perry Park -- about 1,700 square feet -- was endorsed by the Park and Recreation Commission in January. Later that month, Gant and Dixon held an open house at Park Middle School and invited the people living in apartments and duplexes near the park to attend.
"Their response was enthusiastic. People signed right up for all six available (garden) beds and there's a waiting list," Gant said.
"One of the reasons the city chose to put the garden there is 40 percent of the people in that area are living below the poverty level. They need the produce. A lot of these folks are on food stamps or go to the food bank. So it's a good thing to teach them how to grow their own produce," Dixon said, adding that there also will be space in the garden for children to grow veggies too.
The city is providing the water and it built a fence around the garden to keep animals and youngsters from running through it. It also is paying for the construction of the raised beds.
The Master Gardeners also have raised close to $1,000 in donations from various sources. They received a $500 grant from The Scotts Miracle-Gro Co., headquartered in Marysville, Ohio. The grant is part of Scotts' GRO1000 initiative to create 1,000 gardens and green spaces throughout the United States, Canada and Europe by 2018, the company's 150th anniversary.
Master Gardeners will be available throughout the growing season to mentor the budding gardeners.
"We already help at other community gardens in the Tri-Cities and are available to answer various gardening questions from the public too," Dixon said. To contact a Master Gardener, call the WSU Extension office in Kennewick at 735-3551.
Depending on the success of this garden, and the city's budget, other Kennewick neighborhoods may see a community garden growing in their future.
"The city wants to gauge how much demand there is first before discussing any expansion," Gant said.
-- Loretto J. Hulse: 582-1513; email@example.com
How to help
A work party to build, install and fill raised vegetable beds at a new community-owned vegetable garden has been scheduled from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturday.
Washington State University Extension Master Gardener Bill Dixon will be leading the work party.
"We could use some more volunteers. Adults, not children, this will be heavy construction. We'll have a lot of tools but may be able to use some more drills and wheelbarrows," he said.
To volunteer, call Dixon at 509-531-5913, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Do be sure to take work gloves, sturdy shoes, water and lunch.