The assignment of plots at Page Community Garden started last week, with hopes among organizers and participants that the project will sprout into a hub for healthy outdoor activity and social interaction.
The garden is on a 150-by-200-foot parcel of fenced-in land adjacent to the wastewater treatment plant on Tunnel Road, from which treated water will be drawn free of charge for the project.
City Councilor Brian Carey has taken the lead in getting people signed up for the plots. Signups kicked off on Aug. 16, and the process of marking them out started on Aug. 22.
“Right now, we’re starting with a blank palette, so I’m willing to sketch out the first couple of spots for folks that expressed interest,” Carey said.
“And then we have the four raised beds that are already in place that can be filled whenever somebody wants to start gardening in one of them. As people decide if it’s best to face north-south, east-west, or have thinner or wider beds, whatever seems to work better, we can make adjustments before we put a lot of cinder block and other demarcations down.”
He said Page Utility Enterprises and city staff have been “excellent” in getting the garden’s facilities built and ready to go, including using in-kind labor to purchase materials as well as repurposing fencing from another project.
“It’s not been a lot of cash outlay, but we’re trying to figure out what makes the most sense,” Carey said, adding that the garden will probably need to work toward relying on an irrigation system as more people become involved. “We do have to make sure that there’s going to be enough people interested and willing to put in some sweat equity.”
Several organizations have said they were interested in taking part or contributing in some way, Carey said, including the National Park Service, which expressed interest in establishing an endemic plant demonstration garden. The 4-H Club is expected to donate manure, while a local health care facility has already contributed $5,000 collected during fundraising efforts for a previous community garden project that fizzled.
“I’ve heard talk about youth gardens. I know that gardening is an important part of treatment and rehabilitation for mental and physical health issues. There’s lots of opportunities there,” Carey said. “There’s other groups or efforts being organized that are complementary – the farmer’s market, for instance. Here’s a spot to grow larger quantities of things if you’re interested in staffing a booth at a farmer’s market.”
One of the first people to sign up for a plot was Melissa Glover, who is planning on taking the Coconino Master Gardener course offered through the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension program. Among the 16-week course’s requirements is the completion of 50 hours of volunteer activity within 13 months to become certified.
“The community garden would be a great opportunity to volunteer. I also volunteer for the Page Farmer’s Market social media page … so I figure it’s a great opportunity to let people know they have an area that they can come and garden and potentially sell at the market,” Glover said.
She said the garden provides a good space for people to learn about the environment and about what works and what doesn’t when it comes to growing plants in Page.
“I think it’s a good spot where we can talk to each other about how to take care of our gardens with people with more experience, and then just a good place to hang out and do something fun,” she said.
Carey said the community garden will give people who might not have met before a chance to interact at a neutral location over their shared interest in gardening.
“As time passes, we’ll get a nice little green oasis area that might be pleasant for an outdoor activity of one sort or another,” he said.
Carey urged those mulling whether to sign up for a plot at the garden to take the plunge, as the bar for entry has been set low with no registration fee and the availability of free water.
“It is basically a matter of showing up and start putting stuff in the ground. And then the level of effort is up to you. We’ll try to just keep it group oriented as a shared space, so try to make sure your activities are compatible with your neighbors,” he said.
He also stressed the health benefits of gardening: “It's good for you. Good, healthy vegetables and working a little bit outdoors and making your vitamin D in the sun. Everything about gardening is great for you.”
Anyone interested in signing up for a plot at Page Community Garden can email Brian Carey at [email protected].