Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

Local News

February 18, 2013

Plan submitted for Washburn Street community garden

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — Plans for a community garden on Washburn Street are up for city review over the next few weeks.

Imagine Community Gardens Inc., an East Amherst-based not-for-profit enterprise, is proposing a community garden at 221, 225 and 227 Washburn St., three undeveloped lots south of the Washburn/Elmwood Avenue intersection.

ICG is buying up the properties with the intention of seeing them transformed to an organic garden this year. Flowers, shrubbery and some dwarf fruit trees would be planted along the perimeter. Inside, 15 4-by-12-foot raised beds would be available for cultivation by families in the immediate area.

Once the foundation is in place, the garden would be managed by The Chapel, ICG founder Robert Zima's church. Ten or so members of The Chapel at Lockport, and a local Master Gardener, would team up with the 15 families for the length of the growing season to encourage vegetable production.

IGC would arrange community workshops that run the gamut of gardening issues, from pest control and fertilization to how to prepare and serve fresh vegetables.

Imagine Community Gardens is Zima's vision for how suburban churches and their smaller inner-city counterparts can work together to revitalize neighborhoods and lift up people.

Community gardens are taking root in urban centers across the United States, as a means to fill holes in battered neighborhoods both literally and figuratively, according to Zima. Urban gardening breathes new life into vacant lots, reintroduces fresh produce in places that have become "food deserts" and on multiple levels encourages healthier living.

"Community gardens revitalize neighborhoods; they restore community spirit and neighborhood unity," Zima said. "Research shows that wherever they are, crime goes down, education goes up, physical activity goes up ... . It's a very good program for young people."

If it's approved by the City of Lockport, the Washburn Street garden will be IGC's "pilot" or test model for establishing church-led community gardens in Western New York cities, Zima said. He envisions IGC seeding five community gardens next year, and 10 gardens in 2015.

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