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Afton City Council approves community garden

The proposed Afton community garden will be located at Rinta Park, located on the Hudson Road frontage road off of Interstate 94.

Afton will soon be growing more community.

Afton City Council approved the development of a community garden during its July 17 meeting.

The community garden proposal, presented by the Afton Parks Committee, would develop a community garden at one of Afton's parks, Rinta, where residents could plant vegetables or flowers on their own private plot.

City Council Member Joe Richter said he was concerned with the other communities having access to the community garden since that would take plots away from Afton residents.

Richter also questioned whether there is any concern for the gardens when no one is there.

"Do we have to get a junkyard dog to protect the tomatoes at night and scare the deer away," he said.

Ronningen said there are multiple options for deterring wildlife away from the gardens.

City Council Member Randy Nelson questioned whether or not anyone will use the community garden.

"The majority of people who want to garden in Afton are going to have it in their backyard," he said.

Nelson also voiced safety concerns over the location of the garden given that it is on a frontage road that sees a lot of truck traffic.

"If you're a family and you're going to have a garden and you've got the kids and stuff...," he said.

City Council Member Bill Palmquist, who serves on the Parks Committee, said the community garden is really an experiment to see if it something that can work.

If it should prove to be successful, he said the idea is to hopefully install benches, picnic tables and maybe even a parking lot.

Afton Planning Commission Chairwoman and master gardener Barb Ronningen, who was in attendance at last Tuesday's City Council meeting, agreed with Palmquist.

"There's an opportunity to see how it works," she said. "'Grown-your-own' has become very popular."

Palmquist and Ronningen said this fall they are hoping to get some of the legwork done on the parcel, in terms of clearing and tilling, so it is ready to go in time for the next growing season.

The parcel, located on Hudson Road off of Interstate 94, has about four acres available for use.

The community garden idea developed out of a grant from the Lower St. Croix Valley Foundation.

Earlier this spring, Ronningen heard of a grant opportunity from the Lower St. Croix Valley Foundation.

Since the grant is from the Lower St. Croix Valley Foundation, the garden must be available to all residents of the five cities - Afton, St. Mary's Point, Lake St. Croix Beach, Lakeland and Lakeland Shores - that are members of a joint powers agreement.

The only stipulation of the grant is that the community garden cannot be used for commercial production and excess produce is encouraged to be donated to the local food shelf.

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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