by Elizabeth Smith
Creating a community garden is a wonderful resource for people to grow healthy food in an environment fostering community, education, hands-on care for plants and soil, and lots of fun! A group of dedicated volunteers first proposed a community garden at Purple Heart Park but without the substantial amount of funding required by the City of Tucson, that project has been put on hold. Fortunately, another plot of land has been offered to the community, named “The Ace Acre” located at 7471 S. Houghton with plans to become a community hub and Farmer’s Market that will serve Rita Ranch, Mesquite Ranch, Vail, Corona and the greater southeast Tucson area.
The steps of going from idea to reality are numerous and depend upon things like zoning, type of land (developed or undeveloped), ownership, access to water and utilities, the amount of labor/expertise/volunteers involved, and funding. Since this was previously undeveloped land, it required several legal steps in order to begin.
First, we needed to petition the Arizona Department of Agriculture for a permit to clear the site. They had to confirm that there were no protected species on the property. After approval at that level, we did a more localized investigation called a “Native Plant Preservation Study” in order to make sure we were adhering to the City of Tucson Planning and Development Services Department’s Native Plant Preservation Ordinance. Along with that, we created detailed drawings of the site, adding in the topographical watershed runoff, buffer zones, property boundaries, and easements. Once all that was done, we received the permits to begin work.
We are very fortunate to have many passionate volunteers helping with everything from planning and development, plumbing, heavy equipment, etc. Our irrigation expert is upgrading the backflow protector and the meter. We also have plans to put in a rainwater harvesting system. For electricity, we have been donated a solar system. Funding is another important piece of the puzzle to creating and growing a community garden so we host plant sales, garden tours and do grant writing.
But there is one more thing that has to happen for a community garden to come to fruition: “Community!” Everyone is welcome to join in the fun and along with all the amazing individuals already involved, we have wonderful organizations like The Community Gardens of Tucson on board. It’s so exciting to see the dream finally becoming a reality with the help and support of so many amazing people in this community! Don’t miss the Ace Acre Ribbon Cutting ceremony, planned for Saturday, April 28th at 2:00 at the Ace Acre. Refreshments will be served.