BANGOR, Maine — Charles Boothby has plenty of land at his home on Kenduskeag Avenue for a vegetable garden. He has set aside a plot measuring 35 feet by 50 feet where he grows a little bit of everything.
He knows he’s lucky. Not everyone has that same luxury in a city of 33,000.
Boothby — even though it would not necessarily affect him directly — is leading a group of Bangor residents who are pushing to create a community garden in the city. The discussion began last spring, but Boothby said things have started to come together in the last few weeks and the garden could become a reality for the 2011 growing season.
“It just makes sense for people to have their own garden and to be able to grow their own fresh produce,” he said this week.
In addition to Boothby, several individuals have approached the city within the last year about the concept of locating a community garden in Bangor. The idea eventually made its way to the Bangor Parks and Recreation advisory committee.
“There are a lot of people who live in areas such as the downtown that don’t have space for a garden,” Parks and Recreation Director Tracy Willette said. “We’re really fortunate as a city to have a group of … citizens willing to step up.”
The community garden concept is the latest initiative in Bangor driven by residents. Recently, a residents group was approved for a dog park off Dutton Street.
“As everybody knows, the city has limited funding for these types of things, but we can help in other ways,” Willette said.
The Parks and Recreation director discussed the idea of a community garden with members of the City Council this week. Creating such a facility would require minor changes to the land development code. A proposed change that still needs full council approval would allow community gardens in any zone unless prohibited by natural resource protections. The ordinance would require that the gardens be fenced in and would prohibit retail sales of anything grown.
So far, the city has been more than happy to work with the residents group, which may even be able to use city-owned land for the garden.
Organizers recently settled on a municipal site off Essex Street at the former Naval Reserve property, which Boothby said was a perfect location. It’s close to downtown. There is plenty of space. Utilities are available, including water that supplies the nearby Dakin Pool. And the best part? It could be transformed quickly and easily.
If approved for the Essex Street site, the location could accommodate as many as 100 would-be gardeners. Individual garden lots would measure 4 feet by 8 feet on raised beds of topsoil. Boothby said there might be a small fee to help pay for watering, fencing and other infrastructure.
“It would give people some sense of ownership over their garden,” he said.
Two local agencies —the National ABLE Network, which specializes in job retraining, and the University of Maine Cooperative Extension — have been working with the group as well.
Boothby said the process has been rewarding so far but he’s committed to making sure the garden becomes a reality.