Thanks to donation from Joliet, oasis of green space to rise in city
BY TINA AKOURIS firstname.lastname@example.org October 16, 2012 4:18PM
Pre-kindergarten teacher Barb Ormins (right) hands out a watering can as children walk in an empty lot that was donated by the City of Joliet to use for the new Warren-Sharpe Community Center Children's Community Garden across the street from the Warren-Sharpe Community Center Thursday, Oct. 11, 2012, in Joliet. The garden will benefit the neighborhood as well as the center's food pantry. | Matthew Grotto~Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 18, 2012 6:11AM
There will be an oasis of green space in downtown Joliet when a children’s community garden pops up by the Warren Sharpe Center in the spring.
The city of Joliet recently donated a 6,150-square-foot lot across the street from the center at 454 S. Joliet St. The city acquired the lot in 2000 at a tax delinquent auction for $829. The lot went unused until the city gave it to the center.
The center’s executive director, Kay Bolden, said it is working on the garden project in collaboration with the Silver Cross Commission, the University of St. Francis and the Will County Community Trust.
Bolden said St. Francis is providing technical support, primarily with soil samples, and the project is headed up by St. Francis’ senior development officer Don Fisher.
“Their scientists will let us know what will be the best things to plant,” Bolden said. “We’re going to get that done this month, and before Thanksgiving we’ll have a dedication and get the soil ready for spring.”
Fisher said he ordered the samples and the university is paying for a company to test them. Fisher said the process should take about two weeks.
“In most older neighborhoods, you’re not concerned with a serious type of sampling issue but it is just protocol,” Fisher said. “We’re going to do raised beds and soil will be brought in to make the garden above grade. That’s also typical protocol in older, urban areas.”
Fisher is also on Joliet’s city council, and he said he approached the university with the idea of assisting in the garden project. The garden is also part of St. Francis’ Sustainables Communities Project, which combines the community garden and other educational programs.
“This partnership with the university will also have classes in horticulture at the center,” Fisher said. “It’s an educational outreach to that center.”
Fisher said Bill Bromer, director of St. Francis’ Natural Sciences Department, and some of his students will be assisting with the garden.
Bolden said the idea for the garden grew out of the center’s food pantry, where she saw people from a number of households making unhealthy food choices. Children who attend the center will be responsible for planting and maintaining the garden.
“There was no fresh food and there was a lot of cheap stuff, things that aren’t nutritious,” Bolden said. “They have to have healthy food options.”
Bolden is partial to having part of the garden dedicated to fresh herbs, but the soil sample results will dictate what the children will be able to plant. As of now, Bolden is thinking of squash, green beans and other hearty vegetables.
Depending on the weather, Bolden is hoping to get something planted in the spring, possibly in March, and then adding more vegetables as the spring goes on into May. She said she is hoping for a late harvest next fall.
“We’re going to get some information from other farmers who donate [to the food pantry] and we may have to do some raised beds [for better planting],” Bolden said. “But we want to stay away from any chemical solutions.”