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Edible garden planned for Rec Center

BY BEN MARKS | SEPTEMBER 18, 2014 5:00 AM

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Located in the craft room of the Iowa City Parks and Recreation building, an edible garden proposal was held last night.

As part of the Iowa City Parks and Recreation Center’s 50th anniversary celebration, a new garden will open next spring. The garden will offer free food for the public to pick as they walk by.

The garden will be located at the Robert A. Lee Recreation Center, 220 S. Gilbert St.

Crafters and gardeners joined to suggest ideas on the expansion of the already established Children’s Discovery Garden, located on the north entrance, to extend across the west side of the building.

“Let’s develop a legacy project that can last another 50 years that can benefit the community,” said Chad Dyson, the superintendent of the recreation department.

Backyard Abundance, a nonprofit organization that helps people create landscapes through classes and tours, is on the design team for this project.

“Planting food in all areas has all kinds of benefits,” said Fred Meyer, the director of Backyard Abundance. “It’s getting people to use the space in a new way.”

The goal is to have a set design and budget plan by Oct. 4 to announce to the public.

For design, coordinators have three goals in mind for the garden: low maintenance, edibility, and beauty.

Those who attended the meeting were able to vote on behalf of the city on what plants they would like to see next spring.

Attendee Anne Crotty works at the University of Iowa for the Child Health Specialty Clinic. She is interested in the idea of free, local food that’s available at her hands.

“I voted for fruit trees, like peaches and apple trees, and a variety of herbs,” she said. “But they will incorporate a lot of different plants.”

Once the garden is built, coordinators aren’t worried about squirrels and other animals getting inside the unfenced garden, but birds may have easier access.

“Roads create a protection from critters, but we may have to create some protection from birds,” Meyer said.

Though there was some concern about having edible trees alongside a public road, there has been minimal damage at the children’s garden. Employees at the Rec Center expect the same outcome for the edible garden.

Backyard Abundance aided in the Edible Forest design at Wetherby Park in Iowa City. Its success has encouraged others that it will also succeed.

“It’s fun to put plants in and design [the garden], but it needs to be adopted,” said Joyce Miller, a Backyard Abundance designer. “The community, school kids and volunteers need to make it look like it’s cared for.”

On Oct. 4 there will also be a ceremonial tree planting as part of the anniversary celebration, along with other events at the Rec Center.

“There will be a ’50s and ’60s era band at a social and dance in the evening,” Dyson said. “There might be an aquatics event in the pool, but the complete schedule will be coming out in about a week.”


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