The sun warmed a large mound of black earth waiting to be wheel barrowed to its new resting place in the community garden Saturday, May 10.
Volunteers arrived with tools in hand at two separate sites early that morning.
One group converged at Trinity Lutheran Evangelical Lutheran Church, and the other at the United Methodist Church in New London.
Materials for 24 individual garden plots rested in the parking lots at each location. Volunteers sized up the task of laying out the gardens, securing them, filling them and surrounding the beds with wood chips.
By 8:30 a.m., sweat rolled off of Russ Burg’s forehead as he swung a 10-pound maul, driving stakes into the ground at the Trinity garden site. After about 15 or 20 stakes he gave his arms a rest and filled a wheelbarrow with black dirt at the bottom of the hill.
His wife Jana Burg rolled out plastic and stapled it to the edges of the raised garden beds.
“On August 6th last year, the Park and Recreation Committee toured this site and thought it was beautiful,” she explained as she looked up and motioned her had around the perimeter.
Eight hours later a tornado ripped through the site and destroyed their church.
The community pulled together for the congregation as they picked up the pieces and rebuilt. The congregation held their first service in the new church on Palm Sunday. Outside along the property edges remnants of the tornado are still visible in the tree line.
“It will be beautiful again,” said Burg overlooking the newly developed garden site.
Because of the construction process, they didn’t know for sure if they would be ready to move forward with the community garden project this year. According to Burg, it’s something they’ve wanted to do for the past five years, but just never got up and running.
Partnering with the City of New London and local businesses helped the community garden become a reality sooner rather than later.
“We’re glad its happening,” said Burg, as she rolled out another strip of plastic. “We received an awful lot of help from the community during our rebuilding process. We feel this is a way to give back to the community.”
New London Parks and Recreation Director, Chad Hoerth, said the city also began exploring the possibility of a community garden several years ago.
“We had the city, ThedaCare, Trinity Lutheran Church and the United Methodist Church all thinking about community gardens at the same time,” he said. “Luckily we were able to come together in an effort to develop community gardens for New London,” explained Hoerth.
“Both sites are great locations next to residential areas, with easy public access, level ground, and access to water,” he added.
Steve Brensike, a volunteer at the UMC garden site looked over to the West at the New London Middle School.
“We hope we can draw some families from the middle school to sign up for a garden plot,” he said. “I think it’s going to be a good thing for the community. I’m just happy there is enough acreage here, it’s a perfect location for us to do this,” explained Brensike. “When the opportunity came to partner with the city it was a win-win for everybody.”
The New London Lions Club and the ThedaCare Family Foundation each pledged $3,000 for the project. Rawhide Boys Ranch volunteered to construct the beds from materials purchased by the city, and many local businesses supported the project by sponsoring garden beds.
“New London has a great resource of community organizations and non-profits that form partnerships with the city. We value these partnerships immensely because without them, we would not be able to do projects like this,” said Hoerth.
New London Utilities will help provide water in tanks at both locations. The Trinity Lutheran Church garden site is located at 709 W. Beckert Road, and the United Methodist Church garden site is located at 709 W. Pine St.
Twenty four beds are planned for each site including two 30” raised AODA accessible sites on each property. Residents can sign up for a site at the Parks and Recreation office or online at www.newlondonwi.org or by calling 920-982-8521. Cost is $20 for residents and $25 for non-residents.
Registration is extended and gardens will be reserved on a first come first serve basis.
Rented plots must be developed and planted by June 15 and cleaned up by November 1. A full set of community garden rules are available at the Parks and Recreation office.