Tuesday, October 24, 2017 Elyria 50°

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After last-second cancellation by city, gardening group way with school district


ELYRIA - Rain or shine, members of the Cascade-Furnace Street Block Watch hope to plant a community garden today.

The garden is taking root on an acre of land behind the closed Cascade School on Bond Street. Elyria Schools is allowing the neighborhood watch group to plant vegetables in a raised-bed garden on the property, which will remain under the ownership of the school district.

"We`re going to be there, no matter what," said block watch coordinator Holly Huff. "This time, I have everything in order and will be ready to plant."

Huff said she already envisions the property being turned into rows of tomatoes, hot and Bell peppers, kale and other colorful vegetables.

"Donations, what`s available and who is willing to do the work will really dictate what happens from here," she said. "I`m just trying to get people to work together for one common cause."

Huff is hopeful today`s planting will go more smoothly than one about two weeks ago near the Parks and Recreation Department maintenance garage off West River Road North.

Then, just as volunteers were unloading donated mulch and plants, a city employee pulled the plug on the project - saying the group had to insure the vacant half-acre of city-owned land and meet other city requirements before it could go forward.

While Huff said the school district had similar requirements, the problem with the city came about because no one told her what was needed until after she spent months planning the garden - with the blessing of various city officials - and was moments away from digging in.

"Is it too much to ask the city to work with you and tell you everything they want you to do in the beginning?" she said Monday.

Getting through the school district bureaucracy was much easier, Huff said.

At the same time she was working with the city, she also was working with the school district to try to come up with a location for the community garden. Huff said school officials immediately informed her she would need to fill out a building rental request form, obtain $500,000 in liability insurance naming the school district as a holder and agree to abide by the district`s policy on community use of school facilities.

The insurance will cost the group about $250 per year, Huff said.

While unique in its intended purpose, the procedure to allow the community garden was pretty simple and straightforward, said Amy Higgins, district spokeswoman.

For Huff, community gardens aren`t new.

In 1992, Huff was living in Cambridge, Ohio, and organized not only a community garden but also the city`s first all-volunteer house-painting program for senior citizens. The efforts in the community were widely recognized and Huff, who then went by Holly Menge, was named one of 1992`s Jeffersonian`s Persons of the Year.

Cambridge, located in southeastern Ohio in Guernsey County, is within the coverage area of the Daily Jeffersonian. The newspaper, which gave the award to Huff, has written about her recent difficulties in establishing a community garden in Elyria.

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chronicelt.com.

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