Fourth Ward Councilwoman Renée Baskerville talks about a resolution that would set guidelines for local community gardens on Tuesday night. LINDA MOSS/STAFF

By LINDA MOSS
moss@montclairlocal.news 

Montclair may soon set guidelines for community gardens on municipal property, establishing regulations for such sites.

The Township Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Advisory Board has compiled a list of requirements and parameters that it would like mandated by the township for community gardens, Fourth Ward Councilwoman Renée Baskerville said Tuesday night.

Currently there are no such regulations on the township’s books, according to Baskerville.

“That’s why we decided as a group that there needed something in writing,” Baskerville told the roughly a dozen people who attended her Fourth Ward meeting at the Township Fire Department headquarters.

The advisory group wants its recommendations used as the basis of a resolution for the Township Council to act on, and Baskerville said she intends to have such a resolution drafted.

A number of residents are “are really excited” about the opportunity to create a community garden, and the advisory group “wanted to have some legislation on where you can put them, whose going to be responsible and that type of thing,” according to Baskerville.

With the Lackawanna Plaza Pathmark closed for nearly two years — and a new store not likely to be built for several years until a redevelopment is completed — residents and officials are looking for alternative food-sources for people. Community gardens have been cited as one interim solution, putting underutilized township to use for the greater good.

With that in mind a demonstration garden has already been created by Jose German-Gomez, founder of the Northeast Earth Coalition Inc., in Crane Park.

The advisory group’s document says that a community garden is a space where neighbors come together to steward plants and maintain open space. Baskerville read from the recommendations, which also describe a community garden as “a gathering place that promotes healthier eating, physical activity and environmental stewardship.”

Baskerville and William Scott, chair of the housing committee of the Montclair branch of the NAACP, said that a plot in Nishuane Park is being considered for a community garden. It is about a quarter-acre at the end of Oak Street, and is currently used for storage by the Township Department of Community Services.

The department doesn’t appear to be using the property much, and the area is fenced in and has a water source, making it a good candidate for a community garden, Baskerville said.

One resident asked whether that site had once contained radon. Scott said that there had been an environmental clean-up of the area, and that a community garden would use raised planting beds, not dig down into the soil.

Asked how food from community gardens would be distributed, Baskerville read from the advisory group’s recommendations, which say a “noncommercial community garden” can harvest crops “for personal or group … consumption or donation.”

The recommendations for the resolution also say that “community gardens may be divided into separate plots for cultivation by one or more individuals or may be farmed collectively by members of the group and may include common areas maintained and used by group members.”

In other business, Baskerville said she plans to suggest that the council’s Economic Development Committee look at a program that Livingston is using to help residents pay for sidewalk repairs. She said she found out about the program after doing research following complaints from township residents about the cost of fixing sidewalks by their houses.

Livingston’s assistance program is called “50-50,” according to Baskerville. She said it has three components: residents pay just 50 percent of the bill to repair their sidewalk, the town pays the rest; if a resident has the work done through the municipal engineering department they get a 20 percent discount on the cost, versus hiring a private contractor; and a residents have five years to pay back their 50 percent of the repair costs.