NASHUA -- Damian Buchanan, 9, was one of about two-dozen volunteers who spent Saturday pounding nails and sawing wood to build a new community garden along the Nashua Heritage Rail Trail.
The garden has 12 large raised beds and is the first project for Gate City Community Gardens, a volunteer group launched to bolster neighborhood pride and improve public health by giving residents the chance to raise their own fresh vegetables.
"We looked at a number of different sites, but this was one of our best option because of the east to west sunlight," said Paul Shea, a founding member of the group. The garden is located on a strip of city-owned land next to the stretch of rail trail that starts at the Pine Street entrance.
Shea figured the beds would get as much as 10 hours of sun, and plenty of exposure thanks to the many residents who use the paved trail for walking and biking through the inner city neighborhood.Buchanan, who lives next door to the rail trail, was lured to the work site by the humming of power tools.
"I like doing this," he said as he and volunteer Jim Vayo worked together to build the wooden frames for the beds.
Local construction contractor Nate Postrech of Postrech Residential brought his tools and was measuring and cutting long planks of wood.
"Everybody who walks by seems excited, and the neighbors are really happy about the idea," said Postrech.
Mike and Lisa Chenard and their son, Hunter, 10, were also building the beds and raking mulch at the new garden.
"My mom has a garden in our back yard, and it would be nice if we had a plot here," said Hunter.
Lisa Chenard said her current garden is actually a few pots with tomato plants. She's been on the waiting list for eight years for a plot at the city's only other community garden at Greely Park.
"When I go to Boston or Cambridge, I see stuff like this everywhere," she said. "People really take pride in these gardens, and it really adds to the community."
Nashua resident Holly Klump, who also helped start Gate City Community Gardens, said the city and Mayor Donnalee Lozeau really supported the idea and worked with the group on arranging a lease for the site. Volunteers held small fundraising events throughout the winter, and local businesses offered the group construction supplies at cost. The group still needs to raise money to cover the cost of gardening supplies and insurance.
Klump, who moved to Nashua six years ago, said she's always been an avid gardener. She has her own garden at home, but feels community gardens offer neighborhoods the chance to work together to turn underutilized spaces into safe and sustainable working landscapes.
"I have always loved the concept of community gardens and always wanted to make one from scratch," she said.
The 12 beds will now be available to local gardeners who can apply for a membership to the garden. Fees for this year will be around $20, and requests for application forms can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.