Burgess proposes community garden

A community garden has been proposed to be built on this piece of land behind Cross Street Intermediate School in Naugatuck. –LUKE MARSHALL

A community garden has been proposed to be built on this piece of land behind Cross Street Intermediate School in Naugatuck. –LUKE MARSHALL

NAUGATUCK — A plan to build a community garden in Naugatuck is beginning to sprout.

Burgess Alex Olbrys has proposed a plot of land that used to be a pool behind Cross Street Intermediate School be turned into a garden. He presented his plan during the April 10 Board of Education meeting.

“The idea came up because over the winter I had a couple residents inquired about why Naugatuck didn’t have a community garden. I also saw people of Facebook posting about it,” Olbrys said.

Olbrys worked with Town Planner Keith Rosenfeld to find the best site for the garden. The location at Cross Street was chosen mainly because there is running water and a spigot there, Olbrys said.

According to the presentation, the garden would be divided into 30 plots and be accessed by an open lot on Meadow Brook Road. It would be fenced in and residents would pay a fee for a lot.

Gardeners would have to supply their own equipment. The borough would provide a hose from the old pool house, Olbrys said.

Olbrys said the garden could help the community by providing people a chance to grow healthy food, which would be free of pesticide. The garden would also have a plot reserved for the Naugatuck Ecumenical Food Bank, he said.

Assistant Superintendent of Schools Christopher Montini, who previously served as the principal at Cross Street, said he thought a community garden is a good idea. However, he questioned how the garden would impact school security.

Montini said if the project moves forward he would like to begin conversations with the police department about security.

Mayor Robert Mezzo, who sits on the school board, also liked the idea of a community garden. However, he said, long-term plans of the borough may have another use for that land behind Cross Street.  

Earlier this year borough boards discussed the possibility of a long-term plan that included renovating Cross Street School. Part of these renovations would ultimately take place where the community garden is proposed.

“I’d hate to have a lot of work done, applications reviewed, public works time expended, and then realize a couple years from now that we’d have construction there, which probably would accommodate that,” Mezzo said.

Rosenfeld said he and Olbrys had looked at numerous sites. The Cross Street location is the most practical site at this time, he said, because of the availability of running water.

Naugatuck Burgess Alex Olbrys, right, explains his plan to create a community garden behind Cross Street Intermediate School in Naugatuck to the Board of Education April 10. Olbrys was assisted in his presentation by Town Planner Keith Rosenfeld, center, and Edward Betkoski. –LUKE MARSHALL

Naugatuck Burgess Alex Olbrys, right, explains his plan to create a community garden behind Cross Street Intermediate School in Naugatuck to the Board of Education April 10. Olbrys was assisted in his presentation by Town Planner Keith Rosenfeld, center, and Edward Betkoski. –LUKE MARSHALL

“That allows for the cost to be almost nil because if we were to have to install a waterline, that would make the cost prohibitive,” Rosenfeld said.

Rosenfeld said moving the garden in a few years would only require moving the raised beds and taking down the gate.

Olbrys said the site is a good experimental location since everything is already in place.

“If we found a new location, built a fence, put water in it, and found that nobody was using it in the first two or three years, that would be a big waste of borough dollars. In a location that already has the water and fence, if we get two or three years out of it and we have excess funds, we can plan to move the garden,” Olbrys said.

The school board gave the plan its informal consent so the plan can move forward and be presented to borough land use boards for review.

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