The community garden outside the Cortez Recreation Center could be much bigger by spring.
At the parks, recreation and forestry advisory council meeting on Friday, the leaders of a group of volunteers who have cared for the garden since the summer presented their expansion plan to the board. They hope to add 10 garden plots, five of which would grow vegetables for the Good Samaritan food pantry. The volunteers also hope to get the help of some local restaurants to care for the larger garden.
The garden consists of a fenced-in area on the south side of the rec center with about eight raised beds, which in winter are full of vegetables such as lettuce, kale and peas. Originally a Montezuma School to Farm project, it was taken over this year by Cortez volunteers. Read Brugger, one of the group’s founders, said 20 to 25 people work to grow these vegetables, and any visitor to the rec center can harvest them.
The expansion project will push the garden to the edge of the sidewalk around the building.
In addition to the five Good Samaritan plots, Brugger and his fellow volunteers plan to open five plots to Cortez residents, who will be chosen through a lottery. Some of the existing plots could become demonstration gardens for restaurants that have expressed interest in showing off the way they use fresh produce. Brugger said he also hopes to host workshops and gardening classes.
Brugger, along with fellow volunteers Ellen Foster and Kirbi Vaughn, said they want to get as many Cortez residents involved with the garden as possible.
“The United States Department of Agriculture has done studies and found that when you create a community garden, the people who are gardening there (are) much less stressed about food security,” Brugger said. “It’s healthy eating, and it’s good exercise.”
Several members of the advisory council, including parks and recreation director Dean Palmquist, said they supported the project. Palmquist said he appreciates the work of the volunteers, who cleared the garden after it became overgrown and have kept it up at little cost to the city. He also said he hopes to make some improvements to the existing garden next year, such as adding more mulch and building a new shade structure.
“I think it fits perfectly into our parks system of what a park is supposed to be about,” he said.
He and Brugger said the rec center is a good location for a community garden because it’s easily accessible to town residents and has a nearby public restroom and water fountain.
Vaugh said the group still needs to work with the city to find the right time to expand the garden, but they hope to have “everything in place by spring.”