Harrison Park renovations fill community garden need
"Lincoln Park is a food desert," says neighborhood advocate Jodi Broadwell, and there is research to back that up.
It's been five years since a study conducted in part by the University of Minnesota Duluth found that 10 to 15 percent of residents in the Duluth neighborhood experienced "significant barriers to accessing food," thanks in part to a lack of nearby full-service grocery stores and barriers to transportation.
Steps have been taken to address the problem, including the launch of the Duluth Transit Authority's "Grocery Express" bus from the neighborhood to the West Duluth Super One Foods grocery store.
And next spring, Lincoln Park residents will be able to make use of new community garden options to grow fresh produce.
Harrison Park on West Third Street recently received a food-producing facelift: 10 new community garden plots, a demonstration medicine garden and a pollinator garden. The upgrades are part of a larger city project to improve 13 public parks in the St. Louis River Corridor, an area that extends between the Lincoln Park and Fond du Lac neighborhoods.
"We only have (had) one community garden here in Lincoln Park, and it's full," said Broadwell, who is executive director of the Lincoln Park Children and Families Collaborative.
Of the 10 new community garden plots, four are wheelchair-accessible, said Emily Richey, program coordinator for the Duluth Community Garden Program. While the standard community garden plots are about 20 feet by 20 feet, Richey said the wheelchair-accessible plots are 4 feet wide and raised to accommodate someone sitting in a wheelchair.
"So you can actually reach across the whole garden," Richey said.
The Duluth Community Garden Program will maintain the plots by setting fences, managing water and acting as a resource for gardeners offering tools and classes. The program rents space on a sliding scale.
The park's new demonstration medicine garden is planted in the shape of a turtle, an Ojibwe symbol of longevity and strength.
Broadwell said the garden will include four sacred medicines — tobacco, sage, sweetgrass and cedar — among other medicinal plants that will be used as an educational tool by the Lincoln Park Children and Families Collaborative for programming to teach people about traditional and local medicines.
"Some of this knowledge has been lost in this community," Broadwell said. "People are starting to remember and return to some of the uses of these plants."
The medicine garden, Broadwell said, will be open and free for anyone who can make use of the medicinal plants.
"No one will have to pay to harvest any medicines," Broadwell said. "If you're sick, you should be able to get what you need to heal."
Duluth Parks and Recreation project coordinator Lisa Luokkala said the investment in the St. Louis Corridor includes a Neighborhood Park Grant Fund that provides the city's portion of funding for park upgrades. The city spent about one year planning park upgrades with community input, Luokkala said.
Each of the 13 parks can qualify for a 9-to-1 match from the city, up to $90,000, as long as those neighborhoods and park advocates raise money on their own, too.
"Harrison was one of our first parks to meet that goal," Luokkala said. "A lot of parks need more than $100,000 worth of work."
Broadwell said the Lincoln Park Children and Families Collaborative received several grants to help raise $17,000, including a grant from the Center for Prevention at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, and from the McKnight Foundation.
Each park plan includes multiple phases, with the first phase covering short-term investments to improve the park. Harrison Park's Phase One includes installing the gardens, removing fencing along the park's southern edge and planting shade trees in its place.
Phase Two of the Harrison Park master plan includes planting fruit trees, creating more open lawn space, installing picnic tables and a patio, rehabbing the playground, removing underused tennis courts and adding new sidewalks to connect both ends of the park.
The master plan on the city's website shows that a greenhouse is also in the Phase Two plans, but Broadwell said she is not hopeful that will pan out as greenhouses usually are expensive.
Luokkala said the city plans to remove the tennis courts sometime during the 2017 construction season. Broadwell said she hopes to plant a community orchard in their place.
The Harrison Park garden plots will be rented on a sliding scale of $15 to $75 depending on self-reported income and number of people per household. To reserve a spot, call the Duluth Community Garden Program at (218) 722-4583 or email at email@example.com.