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Woodbury council questions need for a community garden

Woodbury, Woodbury, answer this query: How does your garden grow? In open space, a public place; or is the answer no? 

In other words, the Woodbury City Council has not necessarily warmed to the idea including a community garden as part of the La Lake Open Space. Some like the idea, just not the location. Other members wonder if a community garden would be an amenity Woodbury residents would use. 

The proposed community garden is just one element of a conceptual plan for the nearly 30 acres of land the city acquired for La Lake Open Space in 2013. As proposed, the garden would be located at the north end of the La Lake property, near the entrance on Bailey Road. 

The proposal also calls for a large group picnic shelter with seating for up to 150 people, restrooms and a serving kitchen. Construction of a 10-foot bituminous trail to connect Military Road to the Retreat Center and Woodlane Drive to Bailey Road is also proposed in the plan presented.

The conceptual plan was presented to folks who live around La Lake at a Feb. 17 neighborhood meeting. It came before council members at the Feb. 18 city council workshop meeting. 

A total of 12 residents attended the neighborhood meeting, Assistant Parks and Recreation Director Mike Adams told council. In general, the residents said they liked that the plan was simple, and there was minimal development to the area. The residents also said they liked the idea of the serving kitchen and vendor area of the proposed shelter. 

And they liked the idea of having community gardens in the open space. 

The residents expressed concern with the traffic on Bailey Road, in that there is a lack of safe crossing north of the road, and no trail connection on the south side of Bailey Road to Woodlane Drive. They also brought up concerns about potential after-hours use of the park, and that there was easy public access to private property at the east side of the park.

Community garden

While residents may have been interested in the community garden, council members expressed mixed feelings. 

Council member Christopher Burns noted that there are other property owners in the city of Woodbury who are already renting out land so others can do their gardening over the season. 

The city has received requests for a community garden during the past 10 years or so, Parks and Recreation Director Bob Klatt said. He said calls come in yearly, and could remember at least one time when a resident left a request on the city survey. 

Burns asked how the city would set care for the gardens, and what kind of staff time would be included if a community garden was established in the park. He cited a failed community garden project in Eden Prairie, and said he did not want to see the same thing happen in Woodbury. 

Adams cited his own experiences caring for the community gardens offered by Dakota County previously in his career. For the most part, Adams said, county staff tilled up the land every spring, and then let the gardeners who rent the plots care for their own gardens. 

Council member Paul Rebholz was more concerned with the location of the proposed garden. The conceptual plan has the garden located at the north end of the La Lake property, near Bailey Road. 

“This community is very much about aesthetics,” Rebholz said. “We are not putting garden plots along Bailey Road.”

Mayor Mary Giuliani Stephens suggested Klatt and Adams bring back some details on how a community garden would be run, and what kind of interest they have received on the idea in the past. 

“I just don’t know what the feedback is and what the needs is for the garden,” she said. 

In their discussions, some council members suggested moving the location of the pavilion closer to Bailey Road. They also said they were not interested, at this time, in designing the pavilion with garage doors that could be closed to extend the seasonal usage of the shelter. 

Council members will see a revised plan for La Lake next month. Construction of the open space expansion is tentatively scheduled to begin this spring.

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