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Community Garden In The Works
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Riverbank may soon have a community garden where residents could grow vegetables and fruits.

Residents plus some city and Riverbank and Sylvan school district staff have suggested they jointly organize and operate the garden, Parks & Recreation Director Sue Fitzpatrick told the council on May 26.

The suggested site among several discussed is located on Prospectors Parkway near the water tower adjacent to Crossroads Elementary School. This is a vacant lot owned by the City of Riverbank with no plans for its future use.

Staff secured approval to officially establish this site as the first community garden with others to follow. The group has already begun to seek grants and donations and everyone is excited about working together to make this happen, said Fitzpatrick. The school districts will involve the students and the parks department encourages community members of all ages to participate.

There are government grants of $5,000 to $15,000 available, Fitzpatrick said. Gilton Solid Waste Disposal Company has offered to donate compost and another firm offered lumber for laying out plots.

Straight from the dais, councilmember Danny Fielder volunteered his expertise in soil testing to Public Works Director Dave Melilli.

Running his last meeting prior to stepping down from the post, Mayor David I. White commented the site should be publicized and the neighbors need to be aware of the activity.

"This could be a very positive move," said resident Robin Bjerke. "People are turning more and more to food banks. Food prices are getting out of reach."

Scott McRitchie said he saw a broad buy-in by the community and a lot of technical skills available.

City Manager Rich Homer said this garden would be just the first. Riverbank Unified School District also has mentioned unused property it owns opposite California Avenue School as another garden site.

The project could serve as part of city requirements for the 2005 Urban Water Management Plan that requires the city provide water for irrigation and host a demonstration or drought garden, said Fitzpatrick.

Costs to the city would be minimal. City staff will assist as needed and jail inmates serving the last few weeks of their sentence in the Alternative Work Program could prepare the site. Materials and supplies could be obtained through grants and donations. There would be some preliminary expenses for jobs such as soil testing but community volunteers could do all other work