Rotary Community Garden: Special dedication to be held Saturday
By MEGHAN McCOY
Join the Rotarians for a special dedication of the Rotary Community Garden Saturday afternoon north of the City Hall parking lot.
Rotarian Elmer Tabor said Honey Phillips, Rotary Park recreation specialist, had contacted two or three organizations for a community garden at Rotary Park a few years ago. There was a site that was vacant that was already preplanned to become a Environmental Education Center.
Over the next three years, Tabor said they replied no, until past Cape Coral Parks & Recreation Director Stephen Pohlman asked if they would be interested if they found another parcel.
“That is when they found the land next to City Hall,” Tabor said, adding that the property already had utilities hooked up and available.
“Rotary agreed and went before the council in August 2015; ‘We will build you a community garden if you name it Rotary Community Garden at no cost to the taxpayer.'”
Rotary Club of Cape Coral, Gold Coast Club and Cape Coral Sunset joined forces for the Rotary Community Garden.
Fast forward to the present day: At noon Saturday, Sept. 29, a dedication will be held for the Rotary Community Garden.
“It’s where we will officially say, ‘Here, it is done and yours,'” Tabor said of the city of Cape Coral.
Phillips said they are making final touches the garden this week. The gate is going up and they are receiving the swipe cards, which gives access to those renting the garden plots.
Tabor explained that they have a separate funding vehicle within Rotary just for the park, which also was used for the community garden. The beauty of the project, is it involved many community partners.
Home Depot donated all the lumber for the garden boxes.
“They were a very important community partner. That was a sizeable donation,” he said.
Honc Construction and Wright Construction worked together doing site work, another tremendous donation.
Approximately 35 community partners stood up and donated to the cause, which was estimated to be about $97,000 at the beginning of September. Rotary wrote almost $32,000 in checks for the garden.
By the time it is all said and done they will have about $105,000 in community partner contributions and $38,000 from Rotary, Tabor said.
He estimates it took about $150,000 to create the Rotary Community Garden.
“Without the community partners we couldn’t have done that,” Tabor said. “I never got a no when I made the telephone calls. I was shocked.”
Permits for the Rotary Community Garden were in hand in March of last year. Unfortunately Hurricane Irma came last September, just as the clubs started building steam for the garden. Tabor said so many people became busy with their own businesses, houses and relief efforts after the storm that the garden was not thought about for a while.
“March of this year we were able to get back on it again,” he said.
Tabor said once the Rotary Community Garden is finished, thousands of hours will have been spent creating the space.
“We have work parties about every other weekend. We start at eight and work until noon. There are three to 40 Rotarians,” he said. “It’s a three-club project.
The design of the Rotary Community Garden resembles the Rotary wheel. There are 52 plots with the center boxes being elevated and handicap accessible.
The garden has a drip irrigation system, compost and mulch bins, a storage container with gardening tools for community use and a pollinator garden.
“Plots are irrigated on a timer, so you don’t have to water every day, which is really nice,” Phillips said, adding that the only responsibility is pulling weeds and collecting their harvest.
Tabor said the landscape around the park is going to be all edible trees.
“We are going to have tons of different kinds of edible plants and trees. The whole garden will be 100 percent edible,” Tabor said.
Those who rent the boxes are required to donate 20 percent of what they yield in terms of vegetables to the Cape Coral Caring Center.
“They don’t have to grow vegetables, they can grow flowers, too,” Phillips said.
Once the Rotary Community Garden is given over to the city of Cape Coral, Tabor said the master gardeners have already said they would become involved by holding classes.
“That is why we built a tiki hut, so they can hold their classes,” he said.
When asked Tabor if he was happy with the end result, he became emotional as he said, “”Yes, really I am.”
“I was involved in creating and building Rotary Park. That goes back to August 1984. The city agreed with the project and named it Rotary Park,” he said. “That, many years ago, was just a 100-acre field out there. We go down there today and look at all the families enjoying it with their kids. It’s a real feat, what the Rotary has done for the community.”
With that said, Tabor said the Rotary is doing it again with the Rotary Community Garden.
“We’ve got, to date, approximately $2.2 million in Rotary Park over the years in both in-kind and in cash. That will probably double when we put the environmental lab in,” he said. “This is the second time Rotary has built, developed, and given a park to the city of Cape Coral free of charge. I’m proud to be a Rotarian.”
Plot rental is $100 for the fiscal year, Oct. 1, through Sept. 30.
Phillips said individuals who want to rent a plot have to go through Rotary Park, which is where they are keeping the contracts. As of Thursday afternoon, six plots have been rented, with Special Populations having two of those.
“I expect to have 10 to 20 rented the next couple of days,” Phillips said. “We will have a waiting list if we do rent them all out. I will call the first person on the waiting list if any become available.”
Anyone interested in more information can call Rotary Park, at (239) 549-4606, or stop by Rotary Park Environmental Center at 5505 Rose Garden Road.