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Niagara-on-the-Lake
Sunday, October 2, 2022
One man’s push brings community garden to Niven Road
Julian_Trachsel_pictured_at_Newark_Park_where_a_new_community_garden_will_be_built_this_spring._Evan_Saunders_1

Have you ever wanted to grow your own sweet peppers but just don’t have the space?

Your frustrations will soon be over as a community garden is planned for Newark Park on Niven Road, if you are one of the lucky ones who already reserved one of the 32 spots.

If not, the community garden hopes to expand eventually.

“I’m feeling very good and I couldn’t be happier,” Julian Trachsel, the driving force behind the project, said in an interview Tuesday.

Niagara-on-the-Lake town council approved the installation of the garden during a council meeting on March 28.

Trachsel initially approached council with the idea for a community garden last summer, saying it would be a boon to Niagara-on-the-Laker’s who do not have space to garden on their properties.

He said he has spent many hours ironing out the details and working with town staff to get the project rolling.

“It’s been solely me but I’ve certainly had help from the folks at the town. (Parks manager) J.B. Hopkins especially has been very helpful and (chief administrator) Marnie Cluckie has been very supportive,” Trachsel said.

The garden will initially have 32 plots, each 10-by-10 feet, for individuals to use. Trachsel says every single plot has already been spoken for.

He said eight of the plots are being dedicated to Newark Neighbours families as a free source of freshly grown produce.

The costs for those families will be covered by the community garden group. That group, however, consists solely of Trachsel.

Two of the remaining plots are dedicated to growing sunflowers for Ukraine and two more will be raised plots dedicated to people with accessibility concerns. All of these plots are being donated by Trachsel.

A former board member of Newark Neighbours, he said he was happy to cover the costs and noted Newark Neighbours already donated to the project to get it under way.

Trachsel was able to raise $20,200 for the garden. Newark Neighbours, NOTL Realty and the NOTL Horticultural Society donated, with Trachsel raising the rest through word of mouth and social media posts.

“It’s important to note that a lot of those pledges came from people who don’t actually want to even garden there but they feel really strongly that this was something that the town should have,” Trachsel told town council on March 28.

Administration of the garden is going to fall squarely on Trachsel’s shoulders. The town will be helping extensively with start-up work, but initially the town had not offered any financial support.

Trachsel told councillors he was bearing 100 per cent of the costs associated with the project and asked the town to offer to cover a certain per cent of those costs.

This prompted Coun. Norm Arsenault to present a motion for the town to pay $5,500 of the start-up costs out of the capital reserve.

The motion was unanimously approved. The money will go directly toward setting up a water line and faucet in the park, much to Trachsel’s surprise.

“I think council kicking in that money was spectacular. It was totally unexpected — I didn’t know it was coming,” he said.

“That leaves me in a position with either more money for next year or I’ll be able to get a storage shed for this year, which I had not planned.”

Plots will cost $60 per growing season to use, Trachsel said, although prices could change as he works out more details.

The town is aiming for the gardens to be installed by June 1 in order to align with the growing season.

Parks and recreation manager Kevin Turcotte warned councillors that a potential rainy spring could delay the completion date, as muddy conditions in the park would prevent some work getting accomplished.

The park is being used as a nursery for young trees right now. The town will be moving some to other areas of town in order to accommodate the gardens.

Trachsel has created a robust list of rules, regulations and definitions in order to help administer the park.

One of the concerns Trachsel has is wildlife. Since Newark Park is right next to a heavily forested part of town, deer are a concern, he said.

But the cost of a metal fence to keep deer out was too steep for what Trachsel raised. He said it will be reconsidered if it proves to be needed, noting “there are no other community gardens in the Niagara region that have a problem with deer.”

Originally, Trachsel was working toward installing 70 plots in the park. He said the town convinced him to start smaller, something he has come to see as a better approach.

“In hindsight, it’s probably good to start off smaller and get the routines together, get the processes together,” he told The Lake Report.

Part of that, he said, is finding people willing to volunteer their time to maintain the garden.

“Keep the garden tidy, keep the garbage away — things like that. I don’t want this to just be me,” he said.

Anyone interested in assisting Trachsel with this community endeavour can contact him through newarkparkcommunitygarden@gmail.com. As the plots are already accounted for, interested individuals can email Trachsel to get on a waiting list.