Community garden sought at Coady Park

PAXTON — The Paxton Park District could experience some growth in the near future, and not just in terms of the number of new facilities being proposed lately.

While a proposed dog park continues to draw interest from the community, Ruth Ann Noble of the First United Methodist Church in Paxton had a proposal of her own for the park board to consider during last Tuesday’s monthly meeting — a community garden at Coady Park.

Noble and other members of the church’s outreach committee said the community garden would be a place where residents could harvest food and share their love of gardening. Educational opportunities also may exist, they said.

“It’s an interactive activity for community members,” said Les Hitchens, the outreach committee’s chairman. “It’s a place where they can garden in fellowship. It’s inter-generational. Kids can do it; older people can do it. That’s what we were kind of interested in – building community spirit, doing something together.”

The garden would be divided into plots, which could be rented to individuals, families or groups for growing plants.

“It’s been very popular in lots of different places,” Noble said.

Hitchens added that the garden could produce food that could be given to local food pantries or be used to teach classes on food preservation. Noble and Hitchens were joined at the meeting by First United Methodist Church secretary Cara Fitton, a member of the executive board of the Hands of Christ Food Pantry in Paxton.

Park board members said they are considering the idea, although a decision on whether — and where — to build the garden is far from final.

“I think the community garden could be a great asset,” park board Treasurer Steve Sample said. “I think, going forward, it’ll be definitely something we’re open to looking at and something, I think, that could benefit the community.”

Before a decision can be made, the church will need to figure out how to pay for the garden’s water supply — the only major expense expected.

“The water source is, I think, the only big expense,” Noble said. “We want to make a (water) line that comes in so you can have some faucets (near the garden).”

Also among the issues that will need to be resolved is the amount of land needed for the garden. Noble said she does not feel much land would be necessary.

“We’re talking about simple to start with,” Noble said.

With so many “unknowns,” Sample said, he thinks “it’s going to be a while” before the board approves the garden.

“We’ve got to discuss how many plots they want to start with and what we think would be a good number with that, and we’ve got to come up with the location,” Sample said. “Water is an issue because they need water at the site, at least one spigot for water. Those are the kind of questions that we need to get answered.”

The proposed dog park also involves a long decision-making process. Judy Miller of the Urbana Park District was on hand at last week’s meeting to discuss her experience with the dog park in Urbana.

“It was a lot of really good information,” Sample said. “It’s kind of nice to hear from someone who actually works with it, because the people whom we’ve heard the most (from) are folks who have used it. We got a lot of good information with the expectations of costs and things like that, as well as maintaining it and policing it. I think we got a lot of good information tonight that, as a board, we’ll go over and discuss – probably at next month’s meeting – a little more.”

Meanwhile, the Paxton Park District recently posted a poll question on its website that asks if residents would like to see a dog park at Coady Park. As of last Tuesday’s meeting, there were 87 votes, 72 of which were in favor of the dog park.

“Obviously, we don’t want to upset anybody. We want to do what’s right for the community as a whole, so we’re still listening and we’re still planning,” Sample said.

In a related matter, the park board also voted last week on a motion to remove the hill at Coady Park. With President Eric Evans absent, the motion ended in a 3-3 stalemate.

“There’s some mixed feelings on the hill, so we’ll see if it comes up at next month’s meeting and go from there with it,” Sample said.

The board will hold its next regular meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 11, at the Civic Center, 601 S. Fall St. The meeting is open to the public.

The week before, the board will hold a meeting at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 4 to discuss plans for the community sale. Also to be discussed are potential uses of land owned by the park district, where the community sale was held last spring.

“We’re going to discuss the community sale that we held last year and see if there’s any changes that we’d like to see made for the upcoming community sale,” Sample said. “We’re also going to discuss some land usage. We’ve obviously got some requests for land from the dog park and the community garden people, but we also have a vision of what we’d like to see the Paxton Park District become, so we need to start planning. We don’t want to use land in the wrong way, so we’re going to discuss where we want to see some of those things go.”

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