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Medford considers providing a community garden

MEDFORD — Ten thousand square feet of west Medford soil will be tilled, irrigated and ready for veggies and gardeners by June if approved by a Medford panel tonight.

The Landmarks and Historic Preservation Commission will consider a proposal for a community garden on two lots at the corner of North Ivy and West Fifth streets at 5:30 p.m. in Room 151 of the Lausmann Annex, 200 S. Ivy St.

The lots, located in the downtown historic district, were purchased by St. Mark's Episcopal Church about 15 years ago.

"It's just laying there getting no use and we wanted to help people with their garden," said Kit Milles, garden manager and member of the church's outreach committee. "It will be more attractive, too."

Before St. Mark's ownership, one of the lots was home to a meth lab and was burned down in a Fire Department drill, said Pat Ayers, co-chairwoman of the project. St. Mark's oversaw a homeless shelter on the other plot, but as increasing maintenance was needed, the house was bulldozed and the land abandoned, she said.

"There have been so many speed bumps, but we have been so blessed," Ayers said.

St. Mark's partnered with the nearby Family Nurturing Center to co-manage the garden. The church will provide the land and water, and the center will oversee insurance and operations, Milles said.

"It's amazing the people who have surfaced to help," Milles said.

The community garden will be similar to the Blue Heron Community Garden in Phoenix. Of the 17 plots, three will be wheelchair accessible. Plots will range from 11-by-11 to 16-by-16 and all will have raised beds. Families and groups are free to plant whatever they like so long as it is not illegal or shading their neighbor's garden, Milles said.

"They get whatever they can grow on it," she said.

Milles estimates the garden will cost about $18,000 but hopes donated materials and grants will bring the cost down.

A local Rotary club has offered to begin building a fence around the property on Saturday as part of the Take Care of Oregon days, a statewide initiative as part of the Oregon sesquicentennial. Organizations such as Disability Advocacy for Social & Independent Living, the Maslow Project for homeless teens and the Nurturing Center have requested a plot.

"The land was kind of an eyesore, so we decided let's put it to work," Ayers said. "Besides, there's a lot of need for food right now."

To request a plot, e-mail Kit Milles at kmilles@clearwire.net.

Teresa Beskow is a Southern Oregon University intern. Reach her at 776-4464 or at intern1@mailtribune.com.