The Riverside Village Board of Trustees threw cold water on a proposal to create a community garden in either Patriots Park or Indian Gardens with trustees voting unanimously against it on Feb. 15.
A group of Riverside residents had been advancing the idea of a community garden under the radar for months in 2017 until organizers brought it to the village board publicly last September, providing drawings of what appeared to be a fairly large operation that would provide raised beds for private rental as well as a portion that would benefit the public.
The group initially had hoped to build the garden on private property and at one point even considered Riverside Lawn as a location, but eventually approached the village of Riverside to see if they’d set aside a portion of public park land for the garden.
From the start, village officials expressed a reluctance to spend public money on the venture and sent the group to the Parks and Recreation Board to see if that body could recommend a solution.
That board discussed the garden last November, with the main policy question revolving around whether parks board members felt it was appropriate to set aside public park land for something like a garden. A majority of that board felt it would be an inappropriate use of park land.
In addition, it became clear to village officials that the community garden would also need to be at least partially subsidized by the village. A dedicated water line would have been run to the location – at a minimum cost of $10,000 – but the garden group wasn’t prepared to absorb that cost, said Recreation Director Ron Malchiodi.
And although the public works department offered the group nine rain barrels for the garden, it wasn’t clear how water usage would be regulated or who would pay for it.
“It kind of extended past the discussion of just allowing land,” Malchiodi said.
Village trustees voted down the community garden idea with little discussion, though Village President Ben Sells reiterated the board’s position that elected officials weren’t prepared to subsidize it.
“We could not have been clearer that the village did not have a staff or resources to run one of these things,” Sells said.