Plot owners in the new East Gateway Community Garden are planning to grow more than just vegetables in their new venture; they are seeking to grow stronger community ties among residents. Since the inception of the vision of a community garden in this distressed neighborhood of Clearwater, one of the main goals of Clearwater Community Gardens Steering Committee Chairman, Howard Warshauer, has been to culitvate hope.
"It's been proven that community gardens reduce crime, promote beautification and a sense of pride, and build strong civic links among residents," Warshauer explains. "Community gardens are about building communities and building people up."
As planting season approaches, plot owners are working hard to prepare beds for planting, and with each work day more and more local residents are taking notice and beginning to obtain plots of their own. To date, about 10 of the 36 existing plots are reserved by people living within the East Gateway neighborhood.
"I hope this starts a whole series of gardens in Clearwater," plot owner Joanna Siskin shares. Although she lives in the nearby Skycrest neighborhood, Joanna obtained a plot because the community garden she was formerly a part of was on land owned by a church which was recently sold and shut down. "I was so happy when I heard about a new Community Garden opening in Clearwater. Community Gardens are wonderful. They create an opportunity for communication and involvement with neighbors, and create fun, and create food!"
The project is a joint effort of the Clearwater Garden Club and the Clearwater Community Gardens Steering Committee. Edible Garden owners, Nessie Johnson and Cathy DeFelise have also been instrumental in the planning process, lending their expertise in permaculture and composting to the project. Other major sponsors include Lowes, Natures Food Patch and USAmeriBank, all of which backed this project due to it's importance for building stronger communities in economically challenged neighborhoods.