July 09 2012

Growing Healthy Food and People Through City Community Gardens in Olympia, Washington

Yauger Park Community Garden

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, trailsand 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?

Credits: Image and data linked to sources.

Akua Nyame-Mensah

Born in Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.A but raised in Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire and Tunis, Tunisia, Akua Nyame-Mensah holds an A.B in Growth and Structure of Cities from Bryn Mawr College and a Masters in City Planning (M.C.P) with a concentration in land use and environmental planning from the University of Pennsylvania. Akua is currently serving as an AmeriCorps volunteer for a community-based watershed and riparian restoration education program at a Conservation District in Tumwater, Washington. As a Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design (LEED) Green Associate and National Association for Interpretation Certified Guide, Akua enjoys learning about and sharing her knowledge of green infrastructure and low-impact development techniques with others.

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This entry was posted on Monday, July 9th, 2012 at 12:45 am and is filed under Community/Economic Development, Environment, Environmental Non-Profit. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

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One Response to “Growing Healthy Food and People Through City Community Gardens in Olympia, Washington”

  1. Kennith George Says:

    This is one of the more interesting proactive approaches by City government to create more community gardens I’ve seen. More often than not, community gardens are created out of a community reaction to unusable space. But here, the City of Olympia is doing a greater part to encourage them.

    Similarly, Tacoma and Pierce County partnered to create the ACHIEVE coalition which also advocates for and fosters more community gardens throughout the City and Pierce County. The coalition now partners with over a dozen government agencies, communities and neighborhood businesses. They launched a great website called GrowLocalTacoma.com that provides residents an easy way to learn about, support through giving and act by joining in the program. But Tacoma still takes more of an information and assistance approach; whereas Olympia provides the plots for residents to start their own community gardens. It’s awesome to see more Cities taking that initiative.

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