Rockport prepares Marge Jones recreational field land for community gardeners

Fri, 04/02/2021 - 6:00pm

ROCKPORT — A level spot of lawn lying between the tennis courts and the baseball fields at Marge Jones recreational fields on Route 90 in Rockport will soon be tilled and plotted into individual garden space for rent. The Rockport Community Garden plans were approved March 22 by the Select Board, and now the Parks and Beautification Committee is inviting applications to participate in the program.

“I certainly support this,” said William Post, Rockport town manager, at the March 22 meeting.

While there are community gardens established at Erickson Field, also on Route 90, and which are owned by Maine Coast Heritage Trust, there remains a need for more of such garden space in Rockport.

The Parks and Beautification Committee proposed creating the gardens, offering at first the opportunity to Rockport residents, followed by others who may be interested.

Doug Cole, of Rockport, approached Aaron Englander and Heidi Baker at Maine Coast Heritage Trust with the idea of a town-hosted community garden space, and they, said Cole, said there was an unmet need in the region.

He had grown up with community gardens, and took the initiative to explore the concept, using Google Earth to scout possible locations in Rockport. He, his brother John Cole and wife Maureen, consulted with Englander, and his mother, who lives in Cape Elizabeth and helps run community gardens in that community.

“This is going to be elderly-friendly,” said Cole, pointing to the parking lot that lies between the tennis court and the garden area, offering easy access. 

And, it is to be organic farming, with gardeners adding their own compost and ash, as they want to.

“I think it’s a good idea,” said Rockport Public Works Director Mike Young. “I hope it goes well.”

“Community gardens are an increasingly popular way of encouraging outdoor activity for people of all ages at minimal cost to the town,” said Cole, in the committee’s proposal to the town. “They can be enjoyed by the solo gardener or by families alike. The Marge Jones facility is centrally located and already a hub for outdoor activities. The specific area under consideration is noted on the front piece of this document. It is currently unused and is planted with grass which needs to be mowed. A garden is a much more ecologically sound use of this space. There is very convenient parking and water supply for the area.”

Furthermore, the proposal said, the use of the area as gardens would not interfere with any of the other currently existing activities.

“It’s a great option, and I just want to make sure we have the funding,” said board member Michelle Hannan, March 22. “It’s a good way to get people out, and eating good homegrown food.”

She advised getting the garden “up and running” before investing in a fence, which had been proposed.  The town is anticipating $250 to $1,150 year in estimated revenue from the plot rentals.

The board agreed with Hannan, voting to endorse the plan but not spend more than $500 of municipal money on the project.

The total area is approximately 115 feet by 92 feet, and will be divided into approximately 25-40 plots, each sized 10 by 15 feet. Each plot will cost $25, or less, depending if a sliding scale is used. The cash and paperwork is to flow through the town clerk’s office.

The town will spend approximately $200 on rototilling but it will be up to the gardeners to feed their soil, and rules are explicit that no chemical fertilizers are to be used.

Water will be supplied by the town, and a small Little League storage shed is being considered for share use by the gardeners.

The Rockport Community Garden would function under the Rockport Parks and Beautification Committee which would be responsible for assigning plots and monitoring the site for compliance with rules and expectations.

“As the program expands to its full potential it is expected that volunteer coordinators and users of the garden will assemble a management subcommittee most likely under the Parks Committee,” the proposal, as submitted to the town, reads.

Rules and Expectations

Priority for plots will be given to Rockport residents

Permit Holders must act respectfully and safely while in the garden.

Permit Holders must attend the Community Garden orientation held in early May

Permit Holders must read and Follow all safety protocols for Covid-19 precautions. See attached guidelines.

Plots must well maintained, within plot boundaries, and free of trash/debris.

All permit holders are responsible for maintaining pathways around their plot clear of weeds, rocks, etc. Mulch will be available for the pathways; use it.

Let the town office know if the permit holder is not able to maintain their plot or decide to leave the community garden.

If the permit holder goes on vacation they will have someone tend their plot in the meantime, and let the managers know who they are.

Permit holders will use their own tools. Tools are not to be left in the garden. 

When watering, don’t waste water. Let us know about any leaks or dysfunctional irrigation as soon as possible.

Permit holders are to harvest crops from their plot only, unless given permission by another gardener.

Children are welcome and encouraged in the community garden but should not be left unsupervised.

At the end of the growing season, gardeners are responsible for clearing plots and putting them to bed for the winter.

The gardens will be managed organically. See attached list of permitted and not permitted products

Do not plant invasive species such as mint. Or plants that may be federally of tate controlled

In order to prevent the spread of winter moth, only transplant plants that have been grown in potting mix. Do not directly transplant plants that have native soil on their roots.

If a garden plot looks abandoned at any point during the main season (April to October), garden staff will check in with the plot holder. The permit holder has two weeks to respond and start gardening. If there is no action after two weeks, the Plot Use Permit will be revoked. If a plot is left unused or abandoned it will be reassigned at the sole discretion of the Parks Committee

The Town reserves the right to revoke a Plot Use Permit at any time if deemed necessary.

“Have fun, grow lots of veggies, eat lots of veggies, and please ask if you have any questions,” said Cole.