Park Forest 2012 Community Garden Prepares for Growth

Field along Old Plank Trail, Matteson, IL
Last summer’s Community Garden at St. Irenaeus Church. (PHOTO SUPPLIED)

Park Forest, IL –(ENEWSPF)—January 30, 2012. The Village of Park Forest and the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) are in the process of drafting a Sustainability Plan.  Proposed goals have been drafted and are currently available on the Village’s website for public comment (see: http://parkforest.metroquest.com/). One of the proposed goals of the plan relates to community gardening. Currently, a community garden is located at St. Irenaeus Catholic Church, 78 Cherry Street. As one of its 2012 goals, the Park Forest Environment Commission is facilitating the development of additional community gardens throughout Park Forest.

Community gardens are defined as an assigned space that is used by an organized group of community members for the purpose of growing ornamental or edible plants. There are numerous benefits to community gardens. Specifically, community gardens:

  • Stimulate social interaction;
  • Encourage self-reliance;
  • Beautify neighborhoods;
  • Create opportunities for recreation, exercise, therapy, and education;
  • Preserve green space;
  • Reduce heat from streets and parking lots;
  • Provide opportunities for intergenerational and cross-cultural connections; and
  • Recognized by many police departments as an effective community crime prevention strategy.

In order to encourage groups to garden, the Village of Park Forest will make available one of the approximately 40 parcels of land that it currently owns and maintains. These lots are approximately 60 x 120 feet in size. The Village currently spends approximately $370.00 annually to maintain each lot. If groups would like to utilize one of these lots for a community garden, the Village will reimburse the gardening group up to $370.00 for costs associated with the garden. The Village is planning on posting signs on the available lots in the near future.

Each gardening group can design their own garden and plant it as they wish. The gardening group will be totally responsible for the on-going maintenance and after-season clean-up of the lot. Those that decide to plant vegetable gardens are encouraged to allow for some of the harvest to be distributed to those in need in the community. The Environment Commission will also discuss the possibility of donating some of the harvest to the area food pantry.

The Environment Commission envisions that this will be a project where young and old alike will be able to participate. The Commission will be talking to the area schools about starting seeds soon for planting in the gardens and reaching out to the community to donate plants and other garden materials. The Commission is also planning on art projects, educational forums, and a year-end community dinner.

Gardeners are encouraged to use raised garden beds if possible to encourage Seniors and those with disabilities to participate. Plans for raised beds have been provided by Alex Gattone, a member of Tinley Park-based Boy Scout Troop 385, which he designed for the Oak Forest community garden project as part of his requirements toward earning the rank of Eagle Scout. Habitat for Humanity has volunteered to assist gardening groups with building raised flower beds.

The Park Forest Garden Club has also volunteered to work in an advisory capacity on this project. Representatives from the Environment Commission have been busy discussing the project at local church groups and organizations and have been pleased by the positive response.

So while the weather outside may be frightful, you can help pass the time indoors by talking to your neighbors and start planning your garden. There will be an update on the project at the educational forum being held on Saturday, February 4 at 10 a.m. at the Park Forest Library, 400 Lakewood Boulevard. Additional updates will be announced in eNews Park Forest.

If you have any questions about the Park Forest Community Garden Project, please call Rosemary Piser at 708-747-1991.

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