Community eyes similar project in Golden Gates neighborhood
By Samantha Joseph
STUART -- Okra, leafy greens and beds of vegetables now grow on a Stuart lot once strewn with trash and broken glass.
For the past year, about a dozen community organizations -- including St. Monica's Episcopal Church, the Boys and Girls Clubs and Building Bridges to Youth -- have tended crops at the now-vibrant garden near Church Street and Tarpon Avenue in East Stuart.
"This has really brought the community together, and has been very successful," said Teresa Lamar-Sarno, administrator of the Community Redevelopment Agency, which worked with city, county and University of Florida officials to launch the garden on a once-vacant city lot.
City Commissioner and former Mayor James Christie envisioned the project along with County Commissioner Ed Fielding, and the pair helped pool county and city resources for the project.
They started by cleaning up the site, building a fence around it and installing about a dozen planting beds. The project cost about $5,000, including expenses for creating an irrigation system and building a tool shed for gardeners.
Officials at the university's extension office provided seedlings and assisted with soil testing and before long, the garden was ready for its ribbon cutting and official opening last June.
By the fall, it had produced its first crop, which went to members of the community.
"What we were hoping to accomplish was offering a communal activity where people would come together, have fun, enjoy each other's company and grow some vegetables," Commissioner Fielding said.
"We worked as a community to turn a spot that was covered in glass and trash into something that is beneficial to everyone. Now the community has something that it can benefit from for years to come."
The idea has resonated so well in Stuart that officials are eyeing a similar project for the Golden Gate neighborhood...
Commissioner Fielding wants to transform a heavily wooded plot on the west side of the community center into a spot where area families and civic groups can plant and nurture vegetables and herbs.
Plans are underway to generate support for the project among community groups, who would have to assume responsibility for planting and maintaining the garden, once officials prepare the area for use.
"This draws people together," Commissioner Fielding said. "It is also something for the young people to experience the joy you can achieve by planting things, watching them grow and then reaping the fruit."