Elgin club in groundbreaking venture with city for garden
By Janelle Walker For The Courier-News June 14, 2012 5:28PM
Susan Dominguez (left) and other Nielsen volunteers lend a hand in building Elgin’s newest Community Garden across the street from The Boys & Girls Club of Elgin. June 14, 2012 | Michael Smart~Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 16, 2012 6:27AM
ELGIN — A groundbreaking Thursday across the street from the Elgin Boys & Girls Club — dedicating a new community garden — was a groundbreaking event for Elgin as well.
In addition to providing the club and its young members a garden to learn, work and grow vegetables in, the land is city-owned. The garden is the first in a program allowing groups to rent parcels for that purpose, said Cherie Murphy, director of community engagement for the city.
“This is a trial run” to see how well the program works, Murphy said.
For $10 a year, the city will allow groups — clubs, churches, civic organizations and neighborhood groups or others — to rent vacant city-owned parcels for community gardens.
In exchange for the land, the renters must maintain and mow the parcels, she said. They are not allowed to put up permanent structures, such as a fence, but are encouraged to make the plots attractive.
The produce grown in city lots as part of the program does not have to go to the Community Garden Network, she said.
Elgin’s Community Garden Network has 22 or so community gardens across Elgin, said Director Donna Askins. The number of gardens is growing so quickly that it’s hard to keep a day-to-day count of ones being added each day, she added.
The produce raised by the network goes to local food pantries and soup kitchens. Vegetables harvested from them may go from garden to table in a day, she said.
Thursday’s event dedicating a new community garden at 355 Ann St. — across the street from the Elgin Boys & Girls Club’s facility at 355 Dundee Ave. — was a “groundbreaking of a smaller scale” and almost five years to the day since the club broke ground for its new center, said Director Rose Reinert.
It also was the result of several people working together to find the right location, she said.
Police Officer Bob Engelke, the Resident Officer Program of Elgin officer for the area that includes the Boys & Girls Club, said he was looking for city-owned property in the area for a community garden. He contacted Murphy about finding land in the area, and they realized the land across Ann Street from the club was a potential location.
Reinert had been on the lookout for land as well. There are a few open parcels across Dundee Avenue but she was concerned about traffic. She’d always thought the Ann Street parcel was privately owned land, so didn’t realize its potential for the club, Reinert said.
She also didn’t know how to fund the garden — getting the raised planting beds, dirt, seeds, mulch and other things that come with a price tag. Those costs are covered by a Kane County Department of Health “Fit for Kids” grant, which is funded through a United Way of Elgin grant program, too.
Plans are to use the garden as a teaching tool, including in their entrepreneurship teaching program, Reinert said. Children will learn how much it costs to plant and grow the food, and how much they should price the vegetables to sell them.