Meeting slated for organic orchard and community garden

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By Deborah Swearingen

After months of planning, a community meeting has been scheduled for Tuesday to discuss a new community garden and organic orchard.

If approved, the project – a joint effort between 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 School. Initial plans allow for the garden to serve as a resource for Kendallvue students and the surrounding neighborhoods. Among other things, Feeding Many intends to create community beds and a grow-to-lunch program with the elementary school.

No rezoning is required to develop on the land, which is owned by Jefferson County Open Space and leased by Foothills. Representatives with Feeding Many and Foothills met with Jeffco Open Space to discuss the project. 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.

Dr. Shirl Smith of Feeding Many is working to raise $32,000 for a water tap, and this step is one of the last of many she’s had to complete in order to ensure the garden’s success.

“There’s a lot of hoops but we’re tracking towards getting them all accomplished,” Hopp told the board.

All in all, Foothills board members and others in attendance at the Nov. 14 board meeting seemed positive about the plan and what the garden could provide for South Jeffco.

When the community space is complete, Smith hopes it will be a place for everyone. When Jeffco Open Space staff asked if it would be allowed to stop by and pick a piece of fruit to sample, Smith said, “Absolutely.”

Smith’s legal representative Jay Pickard of Littleton law firm Pickard and Ross had similar thoughts.

“Shirl’s intent is that it be open,” he said. “I think that she’s confident enough that it will produce such an amount of fruit that we won’t know what to do with it.”

He said Smith’s energy and passion inspired him to come on board and talked highly of other gardens her nonprofit organization has developed.

“It’s quite an experience,” Pickard said. “The type of orchard that she cultivated and the type of produce and food and joy that it can bring is pretty awesome.”

Board member Tony Esolen commended Smith for her work and said he’s in full support.

“The primary purpose of the land that we have is parks and recreation for the general public, so I’d ask to look for an opportunity to co-brand a program or something with the district and Feeding Many that our constituents can participate in,” Esolen said.

The community meeting is set for 6 p.m. Nov. 28 at Kendallvue Elementary. A final draft of the agreement between Foothills and Feeding Many is expected to come before the board for approval at the Dec. 12 meeting.

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