Town Board will soon finalize Community Garden rules

By Jared Castañeda
Posted 2/14/24

The Town Montgomery Town Board, as part of its ongoing efforts to bring structure to the community garden, provided an update during its February 7 meeting, followed by comments from several …

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Town Board will soon finalize Community Garden rules


The Town Montgomery Town Board, as part of its ongoing efforts to bring structure to the community garden, provided an update during its February 7 meeting, followed by comments from several residents.

Steve Brescia, the town supervisor, announced that the town’s recreation department finished a new application form that should hopefully streamline the process for receiving a garden plot. He added that the board is still working on the garden’s rules and will continue to amend them before the next meeting.

“The recreation department has created a user-friendly application, a form that will be posted on the town website or available for pickup at the town hall,” Brescia said. “That application, along with the payment, a notarized identification form, and a signed copy of the newly approved rules will be filled out by each applicant before a plot is assigned. Notary publics are on staff at the town hall to assist with this process.”

“We do have a draft set of rules and I know there’s some things that need to be tweaked in here, and we plan on doing that before the February 21 meeting,” he continued.

During public comment, resident Steve Vriesma requested that the board implement handicap support for members with disabilities, as wheelchairs and other mobility aids cannot easily traverse the garden.

I find that this garden is not handicap accessible to people with disabilities. I’d like to see something done where those who are disabled can be functional in the community garden,” Vrisema said.

“Because for many people, like my wife, nobody helps them. Nobody wants to be bothered helping them because it’s too much work, especially when you have to push a wheelchair through the grass and everything in the area.”

Richard Phelps, one of the garden’s founders, reminisced on the group’s beginning and hoped that non-residents could still join and participate in the garden.

“Over the years at the garden, we sure did have a good time. I think we built something very beautiful and I’m glad that the town is sticking with it,” Phelps said.

“I’m glad that you reduced the amount of fees, the prices for non-residents, because non-residents were a very important part of this garden,” he continued. “They helped build it, they bring energy to the town, they come in and buy their plants. They should be encouraged to be part of the garden, not discouraged as an outsider.”

Mary Lippincott, another garden member, thanked the board for their work and recommended that the new garden committee comprise three members instead of five, as a larger committee may end up being more stressful.

“I want to thank the board and Theron for reviewing this project for months and coming up with these rules. The only suggestion I have is that there not be five committee members but three because five is too many, and then you have one going here and one going there.”

Gail Nozell, another member, addressed unpleasant emails that the board received from certain members and assured them that these messages do not reflect the group as a whole.

“I’d like to apologize for some of the emails that you’ve recently gotten, I found them upsetting and distasteful,” she said. “I have been the focus of some of those in the past and I know they’re not comfortable to get. I want to say on behalf of most of the gardeners that they don’t represent the garden.

Nozell also suggested that the board give the group a year to reorganize before completely taking over, in addition to reinstating collaborations between the garden and the Montgomery Food Pantry.

“I’d like to challenge the board to give the garden a year to get it together. I think it’s a win-win,” she proposed. “I think we’ve been shifted off course for a number of reasons, I don’t think it’s the entire garden that’s a problem. I think it’s just the running of the garden in the last year or two and it’s been strong conversations and accusations.”

“We should be giving back, it’s our garden and we should be giving back to the community,” she continued, referring to the food pantry. “I love going to the food pantry in the summer, some of our gardeners are very good. If they’re away, they’ll ask me to pick their vegetables, donate their vegetables.”

Brescia, at the end of the discussion, prefaced that the rules would be flexible and that neither the board nor the recreation department was looking to rule over the garden with an iron fist.

“We’re not trying to be a police state here, but I think it’s to a point where we need structure out there,” he said. “We’re going to modify them before the next meeting and then adopt them at the next meeting, but that doesn’t preclude us from, throughout the year, amending these or relaxing some of these things if we have to.”