The long, winding journey to find a location for a Riverside Community Garden is over.
After being rebuffed time and again – the last time by the village of Riverside a little more than a year ago — on April 22, volunteers filled in the raised beds and dedicated them at their home outside Ascension Lutheran Church, 400 Nuttall Road.
“There has been interest and effort to bring a community garden to Riverside for a few years, but the location was always the hang up,” said Bridget Doherty, one of the leaders behind the effort. “Ascension Lutheran gave life to the project by offering their side yard space.”
According to Doherty, the group constructed the raised beds – there are a handful of 4-by-10-foot beds interspersed with smaller beds for herbs and plants to attract pollinators – and will grow produce in them communally instead of renting them out.
“We view this as a pilot program and a community building opportunity,” Doherty said. “Produce we grow will be shared – depending on output, we would love to give to Riverside Food Pantry, the Ascension Lutheran refugee project, but also open up for community ‘pick days.'”
Ralph Culloden, a member of the church for the past 18 years, said that after hearing about the community garden’s difficulty in finding a landing spot locally, he reached out to one of their members.
For about a decade, he and his wife, Terri Lynne-Culloden, ran the Ascension Church plant sale every spring. They used the side lot for plant storage.
“It struck me as a great spot for the community garden,” Culloden said, adding that the location also has direct access to electricity and water.
After getting a thumbs up from the community garden group, Culloden pitched it to the church’s pastor, Rev. Chris Honig, who as it turned out had just been reading an article about building communities through such gardens.
That also fit with the mission of the Riverside Community Garden’s organizers, who hope that the church garden is simply a pilot program that can be replicated elsewhere in Riverside.
More than 30 volunteers helped prep the land and haul in the lumber, which was donated. Other donations included garden tools, a rain barrel and seedlings for the planters. The village donated mulch and compost.
The group was also able to raise $500 at a “Toast to Spring” event held at 34 East Lounge, an amount matched by Ascension Lutheran Church.
“We are excited about what the garden will provide in terms of events and bringing neighbors together,” Doherty said. “We are planning several classes, such as composting and Home Gardening in Riverside 101, as well as kid/family events such as yoga in the garden, ‘eating the rainbow’ and art projects. We have our hearts set on a harvest dinner to wrap up the season — a giant potluck using ingredients from the garden.”
Anyone interested is welcome to join in volunteer work days, events, classes and social gatherings, said Doherty. The group has a Facebook page “Riverside Community Garden est. 2019.”
“The energy is definitely there!” Doherty said.