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'It's a community service'

With lots of labor and plant donations from townsfolk — and the organizing force of the town's garden club — the new Eagle Point Community Garden is thriving, providing plenty of zucchinis, tomatoes and peppers for the senior center and promising a quiet place for people in this retirement-oriented city to relax and make friends.

It's just a shady little quarter-acre plot of level ground by Little Butte Creek, judged unfit for building because of flooding. But with newly built beds — a giant one for the Eagle Point Garden Club and smaller ones, free, for any town resident — the bucolic spot is providing a refuge and outdoor recreation for the elderly, says club president Ginny Newell.

It also provides summer squash, broccoli, eggplant, watermelon and a memory garden, full of flowers honoring departed loved ones of gardeners. It will keep going in winter, too, providing cabbage, lettuce and peas for the senior center.

"It's a community service. That's a way to look at it. It's a place for a lot of elderly people to be outside and not feel threatened by traffic," says Newell. "One lady had stopped going out of her apartment at all, but she likes it here."

Help has come from all parts of the community.

The city donates water, Costco donated plants, landscapers gave rocks and bark, and Eagle Scouts built a tool shed, bench, park sign and large bed, framed from giant timbers left from an old barn. Randy's Feed Store donated wood chips and soil, and Mike Butler, husband of Garden Club member Lori Butler, took time off from his construction work to build gravel pathways using his small tractor.

"I guilted him into it," she laughs.

Hoeing a bed, club member Joni Chenoweth observes, "It's a great place where people can come and just be — and it's great for people without enough space in their yards. In three or four years, it's going to be an amazing place with more plants, trails and seats — and if people want a little garden, they can have a plot."

The city of Eagle Point donated $1,000 each of the garden's first two years, but that fell away with the recession, and garden club members, who collect almost no cash for operations, have decided even a nominal fee would be too much right now.

The city donations were used for paint, garden tools wood and pavers.

A butterfly garden, composed of plants that attract butterflies, will be built soon by a club member, creating a visual barrier from the parking lot.

"It's awesome, like a sanctuary, nice and quiet," says gardener Shari Lawson. "You can pull weeds and be with your own thoughts. It definitely has mental health benefits."

"Physical health benefits, too," adds Cathy Lopez. "I come here and then I don't have to work out at the gym."

The Community Garden is public and is located at 711 S. Royal in Eagle Point.

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.

Emily Lopez of Eagle Point strolls through the Creekside Park Community Garden. The park was brought to light last year when the city of Eagle Point finaly donated a plot of land to the groups effort, all vegitables are donated to the Senior Center in Eagle Point. - Sean Jeter