INDIAN ROCKS BEACH – For years Indian Rocks Beach Commissioner Terry Hamilton-Wollin has wanted a community garden in her city. Now her dream is going to come true. The garden, located in the Nature Preserve on Gulf Boulevard is just about ready to open.
The garden is fashioned after the one in neighboring Indian Shores. It is currently a bed of crushed shell with a wooden border. It is handicapped accessible and soon it will be surrounded by a white picket fence and there will be 50 earth boxes in which residents will be able to grow produce. Hamilton-Wollin said there is just a couple of things left to do.
“The fill is down and the footprint is there,” she said. “The water has been hooked up. As for the earth boxes we haven’t decided yet if the city will buy them and sell them to interested gardeners, or not order them until people have committed to them.”
Many of those decisions will be made once a volunteer master gardener has been chosen.
“He or she can make those types of decisions,” said Hamilton-Wollin. “That person will be the shining star who will make this place run properly.”
Indian Rocks Beach Director of Public Service Dean Scharmen agrees the volunteer coordinator will be most important.
“There are logistics and rules and regulations that have to be in place,” he said. “We need this to be orderly and the coordinator will be the point person who will meet with city staff regularly.”
The actual start date for the garden is April 1. Scharmen said it appears things are on schedule.
“I don’t see any hold-ups on our end of things,” he said. “The development is going real well. Most of the infrastructure is in place; all that is left is the fence and the irrigation.”
Hamilton-Wollin said the Indian Shores garden has been an inspiration to her and others who have wanted a similar facility in Indian Rocks Beach.
“Years ago we explored the possibility of having a community garden, with plots on the ground,” she said. “But that proved to be too expensive. Then Indian Shores came along with the earth boxes and gave us the idea because the boxes work well where there is not a big piece of land available. At one point we asked Indian Shores if we could buy into their project, but they said no, so we started our own.”
To get the community garden off the ground money had to be raised. Hamilton-Wollin took it upon herself to begin that process.
“The first place I went was to Action 2000,” she said. “They quickly agreed to donate $6,000 to pay for the fence, the irrigation system and the lights.”
Action 2000 is a community group that holds fundraisers and donates money to the city for improvements notably along Gulf Boulevard.
Much of the remaining $6,000 for the project came from the city in the form of work on the site by city employees.
Indian Rocks Beach is using the same engineer as Indian Shores for the design and development of the Community Garden. Bob Brotherton has designed both and Hamilton-Wollin is pleased he’s on board.
“He’s a real authority on growing things,” she said.
Hamilton-Wollin also likes something that happened once the Indian Shores facility opened.
“What really turned out to be cool is that the local restaurants in Indian Shores bought boxes in a big way,” she said. “They have learned that they could grow their own fresh herbs and we’re hoping our local restaurants will do the same here.”
The April 1 date can’t come soon enough for Hamilton-Wollin, but she said it is important they don’t rush things.
“We’re going to have it open for business by April 1,” she said. “We want everything working the way it should before we open, but we should be okay by then.”
Included in the work left to be done is the conversion of the existing picnic shelter to a potting shed, a place where the gardeners can begin the planting process.
Public Services Director Scharmen said the project is proving to be something that will work well in his city.
“It is a good fit,” he said. “It is good for the community, people have shown a lot of interest in it and I don’t know why it won’t flourish as a new activity in the city.”
No doubt with the garden now more than a dream and the official opening just a few weeks away, residents will begin to make plans to get in on the activity. Hamilton-Wollin says some people have already committed.
“Three plots are already reserved,” she said. “Two people, members of the community have come forward, and myself of course. I’m happy to say yours truly got No. 1.”