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Community garden space renewals due soon

Sheila Toomey
MARC LESTER / Anchorage Daily News

Remember a green earth? Brown soil? Remember flowers and vegetables actually growing outside? Excellent. Then get your mind around the fact that next Saturday, March 31, is the deadline for renewing your lease on the community garden plot you had last summer.

And April 4 is the day to apply for a plot if you did not have one last year.

Plots in the three community gardens run by the municipality are always in great demand. People who leased a plot last year have first dibs on getting that same plot again this year. You have to show up with photo I.D. and $35 (cash, check or credit card) at the Fairview Community Center by the 31 st or the plot goes up for grabs to newcomers.

Newcomers, or people who skipped last year, can apply for a plot starting April 4. But understand that the word "starting" is misleading if you think it means you can show up the next day. Most community garden users renew their leases, so few plots are available for newcomers, according to Steve Murray of the Fairview Center. Available plots are usually gone an hour or two after registration begins. Doors open at 11 a.m., said Murray. Last year, the line started forming at 10 a.m.

It's strictly first come, first served. In addition to the $35 rental fee, newcomers have to post a $5 deposit.

A bit of good news is that the city has added about a dozen plots at the C Street Community Gardens (at 19 th Avenue), Murray said, so a few more newcomers will get lucky this year.

The other sites run by the city are Fairview Lions Park Community Gardens at Karluk Street and East Eighth Avenue, and the McPhee Community Gardens at North Pine and McPhee streets. The plots at all the sites are approximately 10 feet by 20 feet.

Each site has water, but you may need a hose to get it to your plants if you don't want to haul it in containers. The plots are separated by fencing and there are rules of conduct. It's not like a garden in your yard that you can do anything you want with, including ignore.

Community gardeners are renters. They can't install any structures. They need to be civil to each other. They are also expected to keep the plot weeded out of consideration for neighboring gardeners, given that weeds don't recognize property lines. Parks and Rec checks periodically and can cancel leases on neglected plots.

There's another, putative, community garden that may happen this year -- and may not. A tract at the new Glenn-Bragaw interchange is earmarked for community garden use, but is tangled up in administrative issues between the state and city. More on that another time.

There are other "community gardens" around town -- but these three appear to be the only ones open to the general public. Some neighborhoods have shared garden space, the Fairview center has a communal tract for its Youth Outreach Program, and Catholic Social Services runs a garden as part of its program to acclimate new immigrants to Anchorage. There are others. Check your neighborhood.

The idea of a community garden used to be simple -- a piece of unused city land where renters or apartment dwellers with green urges but no space of their own could grow stuff. That's what Anchorage was like 20 years ago. But today, there's a "movement" fraught with larger concepts: healthy food production, sustainability, permaculture, community togetherness, environmentalism, urban food security, food banks and so on.

Next week we'll take a look at the changes all this is bringing to our community gardens.

WHERE and WHEN

• Register for all three municipally run community gardens at:

• Fairview Community Center, 1121 E. 10th Ave.

• Phone: 343-4130.

• Hours: Monday - Friday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturday noon to 5 p.m.; Sunday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

• Renewals: Any time until March 31.

• New: Wednesday, April 4. Doors open at 11 a.m.


By SHEILA TOOMEY
Special to the Daily News