Now entering its fifth year of growing, Greenwich Community Gardens (GCG) is ready to expand its reach with another location at 129 Bible Street, just across the street from the Garden Education Center (GEC).
The organization has proposed cultivating a one-acre property on the eastern part of the Montgomery Pinetum property in Cos Cob, where members hope to install at least 80 garden beds that would accommodate about 45 gardeners, should the site be approved for their use.
According to Patty Sechi, chair of the GCG Board of Directors, the nonprofit functions as an umbrella organization for the various gardens its members hope to have in town one day. Its mission is to create sustainable, organic community gardens for the entire town, Ms. Sechi said, but the organization’s sole garden, the Armstrong Court Community Organic Garden, is not nearly big enough to serve the entire community. With Greenwich’s diverse population, the GCG wants to ensure that all residents have the opportunity to use a community garden, meaning the organization hopes to eventually establish one for each of the town’s sub-communities, Ms. Sechi said. In order to be successful, she said, a community garden must be close enough to residents’ homes to be accessed quickly.
The benefits of community gardens are endless, Ms. Sechi said. They create access to healthy food for all of the community, thereby helping to combat childhood obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes. Additionally, the gardens hold social and mental health benefits, create wildlife habitats and strengthen the community in general, she said.
“It’s important, as a community, that we’re all healthy,” she added.
Accordingly, the GCG’s current community garden at Armstrong Court has four large plots run by local churches that have dedicated the areas to growing produce for the town’s food pantry, Neighbor to Neighbor. The proposed garden in Cos Cob would also serve that function, Ms. Sechi said. The organization highly encourages these “giving gardens,” and hopes individual gardeners at the new site will donate any extra produce they have to the cause.
Community gardens are also a great educational resource, according to Ms. Sechi. People of all ages can learn more about gardening and a healthy lifestyle through GCG classes and the hands-on experience of gardening, she said. In fact, the organization has worked with the Family Centers’ Head Start Program, teaching preschoolers the basics of gardening — a project the GCG hopes to continue with future gardens.
The intent of the Montgomery Pinetum deed was originally to use the property for active recreation. Instead, the property has been underutilized and has served as a dumping ground for leaves and other debris, Ms. Sechi said. Creating a community garden would be a great use of the property, she said. Not only does the GCG plan to create the garden but it also hopes to enhance the rest of the property with a wildflower meadow, native gardens and possibly a butterfly garden.
The approval of the community garden is no easy task, however, as the GCG is requesting more than a 10-year lease and must pass its proposal through at least the Planning and Zoning Commission, the Inlands, Wetlands & Watercourses Agency, and the Representative Town Meeting in order to be accepted. Fortunately, Ms. Sechi said, “the community is very, very enthusiastically supporting this.” The GCG has met with several neighbors abutting the Bible Street property as well as other members of the community, all of which have been in support of the project, Ms. Sechi said. In fact, plenty of signatures have been collected on petitions floating around town promoting the garden, she added.
The Pinetum property recently was discussed as the location for a cellular tower, a proposal that met with outrage in town. However, the garden proposal is expected to have far more support and would, conceivably, be exactly in the spirit of the will that granted the property to the town.
Provided the establishment of the garden is approved, Ms. Sechi said, it would take two months or less after breaking ground to get the garden up and running. The Armstrong Court property took about six weeks to start up after approval, but that was before much of the community support and funding the GCG now has existed.
“I envision someday looking at a map of Greenwich and seeing dots all over it, and those dots will be community gardens,” Ms. Sechi said. “There’s just a win-win with community gardens.”
Ms. Sechi and others brought the project to the Board of Selectmen at its Feb. 14 meeting for consideration for municipal improvement (MI) status. The board did not vote on the matter, in keeping with a policy of hearing a presentation and then giving time for public comment to come in. The matter could be placed on the agenda for the board’s March 7 meeting, but nothing is set yet.
At the Feb. 14 meeting, town Director of Parks and Recreation Joe Siciliano gave his endorsement to the project.
“There doesn’t seem to be a reason not to do this,” Mr. Siciliano said.