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May 16. 2013 10:46PM

Nashua aldermen approve lease for community garden

NASHUA — City-owned land is being given to Gate City Community Gardens for a pretty penny — or in this case a dollar — allowing the group to build its first of many planting sites throughout Nashua.

This week, the Board of Aldermen approved a resolution authorizing the city to enter into a lease agreement with Gate City Community Gardens. For a $1 annual payment, the gardening group will be able to use a parcel situated on the north side of the Heritage Rail Trail between Everett and Stevens streets.

"This is an important step forward for us," Richard Maynard, president of the gardening group, said recently. "It is definitely a good place to start."

Gate City Community Gardens has been searching for a home for its first garden for several months. The new plot is about 132 feet by 34 feet, and should accommodate up to 20 individual gardening plots, according to organizers.

"This is a great urban location for the community gardens because people can easily walk there, and it is open to the entire downtown area," said Maynard, who was hopeful city officials would support the initiative.

The initial lease is for three years, with a renewal option of two additional three-year terms.

The mission of Gate City Community Gardens is to foster social engagement, public wellness, safer neighborhoods and environmental stewardship in the city through community gardening and educational programming, according to its Facebook page.

Organizers envision this will be the first of several community gardening plots stationed throughout the community, filled with a variety of vegetables, herbs, rose beds and other flowers.

"We are very excited about this opportunity. I think there is a lot of support for the project," Paul Shea, vice-president of the group, said recently. "This is a good deal for us."

There are many Nashua residents who do not have a back yard where they can grow a garden, Shea said.

While the cost of renting individual gardening plots has yet to be finalized, Maynard said earlier that his group may charge a $20 or $30 fee for a single plot. A list of people and organizations interested in renting plots has already been created, he said.

"We want this to be a success, and we want to eventually add more community gardens in other locations throughout the city," said Maynard.

The first garden will be named the Heritage Rail Trail Community Garden, according to the proposed lease.

Shea said previously that the gardens will not cost taxpayers any money, as a fundraising effort is already under way to gather money for supplies, soil and other necessities. More than $1,700 has already been raised. Organizers were hopeful that city officials would approve the proposal quickly, as the planting season is already under way.

Alderman-at-Large Mark Cookson told his fellow board members on Tuesday that it was important to approve the proposal now so that the group's planting season isn't cut short.

"I wanted to be sympathetic to the needs of this group," said Cookson.

"I think it is a good idea as well," said Alderman-at-Large James Donchess.

The lease agreement was unanimously approved by the Board of Aldermen with little discussion on Tuesday.

The area surrounding the new community gardening site has recently been discussed as a possible future home for the city's Public Health Department.

khoughton@newstote.com


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