Development group supports garden project

Posted March 17, 2010, at 10:31 p.m.

MACHIAS, Maine — The Washington County Development Authority reviewed two plans Tuesday, one for a skate park in Machias and another that would provide education and food security for residents in the Unorganized Territory of the county.

Nancy Oden of Clean Earth Farms was given a letter of support for her garden project, which already has garnered considerable support at both the county and state levels.

Clean Earth’s $63,825 proposal would build raised-bed gardens at up to 100 Unorganized Territory homes, provide education, soil, seeds and other support to help people grow their own food, and encourage residents to expand to feed others.

“Our local grocery store has food for three days at the most,” Oden told WCDA members. “Food security is critical.”

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She said many families do not know how to grow their own food.

“Giving families the opportunity to grow their own food at home enables them to feed their children healthy food, and lessens their financial burden in this economic recession,” Oden said.

She explained that the project would have an educational component to teach people how to amend soils, grow food, store it correctly and possibly expand into small farms.

The project, Oden said, is a scaled-back version of another Clean Earth project that would create a village where people who had lost their jobs or homes or both could come and live and learn new trades, such as carpentry, plumbing and farming.

Oden asked WCDA for $9,800 to purchase lumber and hardware. The funding also will help the project meet the required 50 percent match to apply for a Tax Increment Financing grant from the Washington County commissioners.

The TIF funds must be used for projects in the Unorganized Territory only.

Oden said she already has donations of $26,000 in in-kind contributions to the project. Although the TIF funding requires a 50 percent match to be in cash, Oden said, she will seek an exemption from the county commissioners. She is expected to present the proposal to the county on April 8.

Although all WCDA members present voted in support of the project and will provide a letter stating so, many wanted more details before approving the actual funding. In particular, they were interested in knowing how many UT residents would take advantage of the gardens.

Oden said a mass mailing to all 1,500 UT households was part of her project. She said that in random contacts she has made with UT people, there is great interest.

“This is a great idea,” WCDA member Barbara Drisko said. “I’d love to see it expanded beyond the UTs in the future.”

Machias town manager and county manager Betsy Fitzgerald updated the committee about a separate project, a Machias skateboard park off Grove Street. She said there has been progress toward creating a park design but there are no final figures on costs.

“We must replace 10 lights and an electrical panel,” she said. Parks can range between $10,000 and $350,000, she said.

Both the local Rotarians and the town of Machias have already contributed some funding, and Fitzgerald will research grants from the state Bureau of Parks and Lands for recreational development.

“I will come back with hard numbers and a final proposal,” she said.

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