Thursday, June 20, 2013

Community Gardens Tour Offers Glimpse of Urban Agriculture

By Paul Thompson

Like fresh produce in spring, community gardens continue to sprout up throughout Kansas City.

Emily Miller, an associate of the Food Policy Coalition, stopped by the monthly Second Fridays meeting at Trailside Center last week to discuss the upcoming Urban Grown Farms and Gardens Tour, which will be held on Saturday, June 22 and Sunday June 23 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The tour, which only occurs every other year, is currently in its fifth installment and is designed to highlight more than 60 community gardens that have been started throughout the city. Those interested in checking it out can opt for a bus tour as well as bicycle tours. Individual tickets are available for $8, and can be purchased at www.cultivatekc.org.

Miller and the rest of the Food Policy Coalition hope that the tour can help inspire people to join or start community gardens of their own. Some stops on the tour will provide workshops and lessons for the whole family, and those on the tours will have access to some of the freshest produce in the city.

Miller noted that her organization is getting stronger, mostly due to the increasing local support behind efforts to grow fresh, locally produced products.

“Our coalition is made up of people who eat food, people who grow food, people who sell food, and people who distribute food,” said Miller. “There are a lot of people who are doing community gardening.”

Some of the groundswell of support in favor of community gardens is actually coming from city government, and the Land Bank that it created.

“One of the objectives of the Land Bank is to promote urban agriculture, to promote community gardens in those areas,” added Miller.

Although interest in community gardens has increased significantly, Miller noted that there were still road-blocks to adding more gardens throughout the city. One of the biggest issues, according to Miller, is access to water.

“They have lots of folks that want to hand over lands for community gardens,” said Miller. “But there’s no water access to those lands, so there’s no use for them right now.”

It’s a problem that 6th District councilman John Sharp has also noted.

“At this point, I think water is the big issue,” said Sharp. “Hopefully we’ll be able to work with the water department to come up with a solution.”

Also at the meeting, Kansas City Public Works project manager Damon Hodges stopped by to discuss progress on the Longview Road project. Hodges noted that although the project suffered through a late and chilly winter, his people have been working overtime to make sure that the project was able to get finished by early summer.

“Initial construction started on December 28. We were trying to get started, but as you know we had a later winter this year,” said Hodges. “That threw a big wrench in things. Our contractor was working 70-hour weeks for the two weeks before Memorial Weekend. So they did a good job.”

Those long work weeks paid off, as Hodges and company worked tirelessly to at least get Longview Road open and serviceable for the summer swimming season at The Bay Water Park. Now that Longview Road has been successfully opened, Hodges can turn his attention to Stage 2 of the project, which has already begun.

“Right now we’re in phase 2, which is to realign Food Lane,” said Hodges. “There’ll be a new traffic signal there. We’ll actually be putting asphalt down there by mid-July, maybe a bit sooner.”

Hodges also noted that Food Lane would be a two-lane street that also included a turn lane. In the past, big vehicles had seen some trouble navigating those turns. Aside from the street repairs, homeowners who experienced flooding recently will be happy to learn that the city is working on the water mains as well.

“One of the initiatives from the city manager was that each time we do a roadway project, we fix the water main,” said Hodges. “Right now, we’re having pretty good weather, and we’ve been staying on schedule. The objective is to get the roadway open as soon as possible.”

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