SIDE STREETS: Help plant the seeds of community by volunteering in Mill Street

BILL VOGRIN Updated: November 14, 2012 at 12:00 am • Published: November 14, 2012

Did you close your garden for the winter but still find yourself with an itch to dig around in the dirt?

Maybe you just like to volunteer. Or you are a believer in the value of community gardens.

Whatever the reason, get down to 1013 S. Cascade Ave. at 8:30 a.m., Saturday and prepare to get dirty.

The folks at Pikes Peak Urban Gardens and the Mill Street Neighborhood Association will be transforming a vacant lot owned by Colorado Springs Utilities into a community garden.

“We’re going to do a ‘blitz build’ Saturday,” said Larry Stebbins, director of Pikes Peak Urban Gardens. “We’re hoping to get a bunch of neighbors and volunteers in there and it will be craziness for a couple hours.”

There will be heavy equipment to move soil. Lumber to haul and hammer. And grade “A” topsoil to shovel.

It should be fun.

Stebbins is confident the transformation will be complete by noon, allowing volunteers to enjoy a celebratory “job-well-done” meal on the site.

“The Mill Street Neighborhood is going to fix lunch for everybody,” Stebbins said.

You may recall I wrote about this garden in April. At that time, John Himmelreich, neighborhood activist, told me of efforts to secure grants and get permission from Springs Utilities to garden on the site, vacant after a home was demolished years ago.

The money was needed to cover expenses such as extensive and expensive plumbing to tap into a city water main, install an irrigation system and hydrants.

And there were big bills for things like fencing, 375 pieces lumber for beds and 100 cubic yards of soil.

Himmelriech and Stebbins had hoped to get the garden installed in time for the summer growing season. But the project was delayed for months by paperwork for environmental clearances associated with federal community block grants.

But that wasn’t all bad. During the delay, Springs Utilities received permission from the City Council to waive $9,200 in tap fees — the waiver now applies to all community gardens — reducing the price of the project to $23,000, said Beth Diana of the Colorado Springs Housing Development Division.

Also, the lot was redesigned, more than doubling the number of beds. Plans now call for 125 raised beds to be rented by neighbors and others.

Most beds will be 4-by-8 feet and eight inches high. For gardeners who can’t bend over so far, some beds will be 16 inches high.

But help is needed for construction. Diana said a group of volunteers from the city will be on hand.

“This is the exciting part,” she said.

If you want to help, drop down Saturday morning. And if you want lunch, contact Stebbins at larry@ppugardens.org by noon Thursday so he can get groceries.

Or bring your own lunch and plan to get dirty.

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