Friendly Hills reacts to community garden idea

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By Deborah Swearingen

On Nov. 28, residents of Friendly Hills in Morrison came armed with questions about a community garden that may soon be coming to their neighborhood.

If approved, the project — a joint effort between nonprofit organization Feeding Many Inc. and Foothills Park and Recreation District — would develop a garden and orchard in a plot of land at Weaver Creek Park on South Cole Street, adjacent to Kendallvue Elementary. Initial plans allow for the garden to serve as a resource for Kendallvue students and the surrounding communities.

No rezoning is required to develop on the land, which is owned by Jefferson County Open Space and leased by Foothills. So far, Jeffco Open Space is receptive to the project, according to Foothills executive director Ron Hopp, but the entity did ask for an official request letter and to view the final signed agreement.

Though many in the meeting at Kendallvue last week had questions and concerns, most seemed receptive to the project initiated by Dr. Shirl Smith of Feeding Many.

Some Friendly Hills residents wondered what effect the community garden might have on their homes’ property values, though Smith didn’t have data to answer the question.

“That lot has been an eyesore and a community blight ever since I’ve lived here, and I would love to see something wonderful happen instead of it sitting there,” said Karen Hunley, an original resident of Friendly Hills who has lived in the neighborhood for 41 years.

“I don’t see how having something like this is going to detract from property values. I think it can only increase them,” she said.

As a retired science teacher, Hunley said the community garden would be a tremendous benefit for Kendallvue students and neighborhood children.

Molly Touher, principal at Peiffer Elementary, spoke to this, as well. Touher worked with Smith to help build a garden at the neighboring elementary school. Although this particular garden is meant solely for the school, Touher said it’s been an amazing asset for Peiffer.

“It’s changed our school. It’s changed the way we think about learning,” she said.

Not all residents approved of the community garden plans, however. Some feared that it could increase crime in the area and wondered about increased traffic and other problems the garden could bring.

Should it be approved, the community garden would come at no cost to residents or to Foothills Park and Recreation. Smith foots the bill through her nonprofit organization, which receives money from grants, fund-raisers and donations. She told Foothills board members earlier in November that one of the larger costs would be the $32,000 water tap she plans to install on the property.

Much of the garden and orchard upkeep will be done Smith, who said she feels called to give back to the community through Feeding Many.

A final draft of the agreement between Feeding Many and Foothills is set to come before Foothills board of directors this Tuesday.

Contact reporter Deborah Swearingen at dswearingen@evergreenco.com or 303-350-1042. Follow her on Twitter @djswearingen.