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A better home for gardens in Edgerton?

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Neil Johnson
December 11, 2013

EDGERTON—An Edgerton alderman has an ambitious plan that could turn the city's modest community garden program into a park-like plaza for people who enjoy growing and tending their own food.

Alderman Mark Wellnitz has spent the last several months crafting plans and hand-drawn maps detailing a three-acre city property north of Lyons Street. The city's new ad hoc community garden committee has discussed turning the space into a park-like community garden area.

Among ideas by Wellnitz are plans to start grape vines, berry bushes and eventually even a fruit-tree orchard—all for public use. Other parts of the proposed garden plan: herb, rhubarb and asparagus gardens; a greenhouse; a gazebo area; and walking paths that mingle with an existing treeline. An existing bike path also is in Wellnitz's drawings.

Wellnitz acknowledged that many of the plan's features are purely conceptual, but he said there's space to double the size of the garden plots if residents show enough interest. Between eight and 10 residents have expressed interest in the new garden, he said.

Signup for city garden plots starts Jan. 1, he said.

The city council already has allowed public works crews and volunteers to till up 15 garden plots at the new location, which is next to the city's former community garden plots along Lyons Street on the city's west side.

The first community garden, which had existed for several years, fizzled and lost some public interest in the last two years. Reasons for the waning interest were the lack of a water source at the gardens and the opening of community gardens at Edgerton Hospital adjacent to its campus on North Sherman Road.

“It got to the point where we needed to find a way to make improvements because it was getting to hard for people to keep their (community) plots going,” Wellnitz said.

The council this year approved installation of a hand pump to tap groundwater at the new garden. It also approved a sign at the garden. 

The city has on file its own conceptual drawings of the 15 newly plowed plots, and Wellnitz's plans and their potential costs have yet to be discussed in detail by the city's community garden committee or parks and recreation committee, which Wellnitz chairs.

City Administrator Ramona Flanigan said she's talked with Wellnitz about his vision for a park-style garden complex with a diverse set of potential perennial plantings, including a tree orchard.

“It's someone's dream, which is fabulous. It's got to start somewhere,” Flanigan said.

She said she advised Wellnitz and other members of the garden committee to research community garden rules from cities such as Madison and discuss a policy on who would be responsible for perennial plantings before the plan gets further review.

“When you start talking about berry bushes and grapes, they have a more than one-year lifespan,” Flanigan said. “Let's say Mark is successful in planting raspberries, strawberries and grapes. Those things become more valuable over time. Ideally, there would be a policy of who would maintain those parts year after year. They need to debate that.”



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