The City of Olympia adopted a Parks, Arts & Recreation Plan on August 10, 2010 that found “[a]s a result of population increase and urban densification, back-yards are decreasing in size. This absence of a personal piece of land has also [led] to the increased demand for community gardens. [The 10 year Parks] plan responds to those needs by making a commitment to neighborhood and community parks, trails… and access to gardening plots.” Olympia is currently implementing the 2010 Parks Plan and has given residents the opportunity to rent community garden plots.
The 2010 Parks, Art & Recreation Plan was developed with public participation. In 2008 the City held a Public Workshop on important park facilities. Community gardens were ranked 10th, out of 53 different park facilities that the department should provide. Of the 116 written comments sent in about the plan, 5% advocated for community gardens. As a result, the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee listed providing sustainable community gardens on their “Top 10” list of new programs/ facilities the department should implement.
In the 2010 Parks Plan, the City lists the following as being the benefits of providing community gardening space to residents:
- Building “community;”
- Reducing hunger and malnutrition;
- Helping the environment;
- Providing health benefits.
Olympia provides over 100 plots that residents can rent at low prices at two community gardens within the city: Yauger Park Community Garden and Sunrise Community Garden. This year, the City of Olympia Parks, Arts and Recreation Department (OPARD) gave households the option of renting up to two 50 square feet spaces for a $25 fee per plot. ADA-accessible 24 square feet plots were also available for senior citizens and disabled citizens for a $12 fee. The applications are easily accessible on OPARD’s website along with a set of rules all community gardeners must abide by. The OPARD is planning to spend $65,000 on community gardens over the next two years and hopes to construct up to 5 more gardens in the city.
To ensure that the gardens are well maintained, OPARD has established partnerships with neighborhood associations and non-profits. The Sunrise Community Garden was initially established in 2006 through a partnership with the Olympia based environmental non-profit Garden Raised Bounty (GRuB), TOGETHER!, and the United States Department of Agriculture. A Garden Council currently manages Sunrise Community Garden. Completed in 2011, Yauger Park Community Garden is located within the 40-acre Yauger Park. Yauger Park Community Garden has about 70 plots available for Olympia gardeners and is adjacent to a demonstration garden run by volunteer Master Gardeners.
What other cities are implementing plans to provide space for urban residents to get outside and grow their own food?
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