Only a handful of communities—15 to be exact—were chosen across the nation for so-called "Grow Your Park" grants and Boise is one of those selected by the Darden Foundation and the National Recreation and Park Association. The $10,000 grant will help cultivate the development of more community gardens across Boise: specifically in Comba, Fort Boise and Liberty parks.
“Community gardens were really driven by the public,” said Maria Minicucci, Boise Parks and Recreation property administrator. “Our goal is to provide an opportunity to those who cannot grow their own food.”
And grow they have. Katie Painter, agricultural coordinator for the Idaho Office of Refugees, told Boise Weekly that Liberty Park alone has 30 families from around the community utilizing the garden, with plans to accommodate more by next year.
Those who take part in the community gardens are often people who don't have personal space available to grow their own garden. Gardeners willing to share space with their neighbors are free to take home all that they grow.
In order to keep the gardens accessible to everyone, the grant will be used to cover insurance and maintenance costs, Minicucci told BW. Grant funding will also help improve tools, fences, compost and ditches at Liberty Park. A new garden and greenhouse are planned near Fort Boise Community Center, and the Comba location will get a new irrigation system.
“The grant will shoulder some of these costs to ensure money is not a barrier for the gardeners,” said Minicucci.
“Community gardens help improve the health of our citizens,” said Doug Holloway, director of Boise Parks and Recreation. He explained that community gardens are important for healthy lifestyles and to “strengthen self-sufficiency for low-income residents.”
Providing healthy food isn’t the only benefit of community gardens, however.
“We’re happy to have it be a learning opportunity in the parks,” said Minicucci as she explained how welcoming and informative the gardeners have been. “Many people haven’t even seen a cucumber plant before.”
The gardens offer people in the community a chance to learn from one another. Minicucci told BW that an even more formal educational opportunities will be available as a new facility will be built for Boise Urban Garden School at Comba Park.
“It’s been a very positive thing for the neighborhood,” said Minicucci. “It brings together a diverse population, from retirees to grade-school kids.”
Minicucci expressed Boise Parks and Recreation’s gratitude to the Darden Foundation and the NRPA for recognizing the value the gardens have in the community.
“It’s been a learning experience for everyone, but things are moving forward,” said Minicucci. “We’re really excited they chose little Boise, Idaho.”