- A community garden is proposed for the area labeled "Fenton Street UP." MNCPPC owns the areas outlined in green and is trying to buy the checkered-over areas. (Photo: TBD Staff)
Getting a community garden site approved in Montgomery County is no easy matter; soil tests must be done, the community has to be consulted, and land agreements or leases have to be finalized.
It can be especially difficult if you want a garden near downtown Silver Spring, where demand is quite high and land is limited. It's even more difficult if the former tenant on a proposed site is a plumbing supply company, which is the case for a proposed garden site at 7904 Fenton St. Who knows just what is in that soil?
Montgomery County's Department of Parks community garden coordinator Ursula Sabia Sukinik says she still needs to conduct soil tests on the proposed Fenton Street Urban Park site ("for all I know, it could have lead," she notes).
"Because it was a staging area for a plumbing supply company, with this one, we have many hoops to jump through," she says. "If all is good on that end, it could be open by spring."
Remnants of the plumbing building are being cleared from the site now. The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission bought some of the land at the site, with plans to eventually turn it into a "gateway" park, which is a non-recreational green space that serves as a gateway to a business district community. The garden would just be a temporary use of the space until MNCPPC is able to buy up more land and turn it into a gateway park.
One part of getting site approval is gauging community feedback, and no one at Monday night's community garden meeting to discuss the Fenton Street Urban Park site came out against the plan. Some did worry about the accessibility of the site, though.
"I think it's a very busy intersection, but I like the idea of having community gardens," Dale Barnhard said.
"People will garden wherever you give them ground," Annlinn Kruger said. "This would be an improvement [of the site] for those of us who live near there."
And ground is scarce around Silver Spring. Montgomery County Parks' horticultural services division chief David Vismara said soon green building rooftops will be all that's left in available space.
"There's such a demand in downtown Silver Spring for this type of activity," he said. "In this area, it's exceedingly hard to find space."
There is another community garden site up for approval in South Silver Spring, but 7-11, which leases the promised land, has yet to sign off on the deal. The 2-year-long process to get the King Street and Eastern Avenue garden approved may be coming to an end in time for the spring 2011 planting season, Sabia Sukinik said.
But if you want to secure a plot for these gardens, get in line; the wait list for the county's current gardens is more than 200-people long. Sabia Sukinik says the process will be automated this winter with a website that will allow gardeners to see maps of the gardens and choose specific plots. Plots in new gardens are awarded by a lottery system, with those people living within a half-mile radius of a site getting preference.
Sabia Sukinik is still accepting community feedback on the Fenton Street Urban Park garden site via email at Urusla.Sabiasukinik@montgomeryparks.org.