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November 20. 2013 9:53PM

Windham selectmen show support for community garden plan

WINDHAM — Plans for Windham's new community garden are coming into bloom this week after selectmen approved an agreement between the town and a private property owner.

During Monday night's meeting of the Windham Board of Selectmen, Community Development Director Laura Scott and University of New Hampshire graduate student Jeffrey Malloy shared plans for the 20-plot garden to be built at 122 North Lowell Road.

Malloy, who is undertaking the project as part of his college thesis project, has been working in environmental planning for the past decade and met Scott while attending a public administration course she led at the local university.

After writing a research paper on localized food initiatives, Malloy knew he was interested in pursuing such a project himself, with Scott's encouragement.

Scott said the garden would work well along with the town's other recent community-building endeavor, the Adopt-A-Spot program.

"Both of these programs are really about neighbors spending time together and helping each other," Scott said. "Some of the food that's grown in the garden might even be donated to help those in need."

Malloy, who lives in Windham, said he's researched other public gardens in the area, including the ones in Derry and Goffstown. He said the one-acre site at North Lowell Road turned out to be the best option.

"There's a lot of conservation land here in town, but not a lot of places with the right amount of sunlight, water and accessibility," he said.

Currently used as grazing space for horses, few changes would need to be made to the spot other than some simple chicken-wire fencing, rain barrels, a few raised garden beds and some composting bins.

Interested gardeners would be given an 8-by-4-foot plot on a first-come, first-served basis. Malloy said there's room on the site to add an additional 10 garden plots should the program prove popular.

Public donations would be used to purchase some simple construction supplies.

Scott said the property owner had no problem lending his land to the town, and in fact, wants to partake in the spring planting.

"It's a cool idea," Selectmen Al Letizio said, noting that the program reminded him of one his great-grandparents took part in a century ago while living in a Lawrence, Mass., tenement.

"But this isn't an urban area," Letizio added. "So what's the motivation for folks not wanting to plant on their own land?

Malloy said the goal of the Windham garden isn't the same as goals in urban community gardens, noting that this project "is more focused on bringing the community together in civic engagement."

"Yes, most of the folks in this town have room at home for their own gardens, but this is such a beautiful place to gather and to work together," he said.

Selectman Roger Hohenberger noted that the Goffstown community garden, located near the state women's prison, is also in a rural setting and has proven a popular spot with citizens.

The selectmen voted unanimously to support the community use agreement. The project will next go before the Windham Planning Board, with a public hearing on the garden's site plan to take place Dec. 4.

If all goes smoothly, project officials are hoping to secure enough donations and interest to have the garden up and running sometime this spring.aguilmet@newstote.com


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