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Port's First Community Garden Approved Despite Some Controversy

Groundbreaking for garden along the Interurban Trail likely to happen this fall, despite opposition of its location from some residents.

Support for a community garden in Port Washington is not taking root as easy as organizer Derek Strohl would have hoped.

The in early September approved a site for the garden to be built — just about one year after the search for a site began.

The , but some Port residents think the garden would be better off somewhere else in the city.

“This is just one more hiccup in the process,” Strohl said. “It feels great that the (parks and rec) board is now behind this, and I’m confident that we’ll get to break ground this fall and … people who are opposed to it now will either forget about it or come around to it.”

But those vocally opposed to the location seem to already be open to the idea of a community garden — as long as it were somewhere else.

“We are not against a community garden, and never have been,” Port resident Bob Vanden-Heuvel said while addressing the Common Council on Wednesday night. “Sometimes we don’t know what we have until we lose it. In order to understand why we are opposed to the Hales Trail site, we need to understand what we have at that site.”

The chosen site, Vanden-Heuvel said, has developed into a natural area where deer, birds and other wildlife often take refuge. In fact, he said, birders specifically come to the trail for that reason.

Rather than ruin an area that is used by so many animals and enjoyed by so many people, “would it not be better to select a site that needs improvement?” he asked, pointing to sites such as fields around the Ozaukee Justice Center and along Highway LL, among others.

But Strohl said he and others involved in the garden process have spent the last year asking many of the same questions and addressing similar concerns as Vanden-Heuvel pointed out.

“We have scoured the city looking for appropriate sites,” Strohl said. “We have done our homework, and the park’s board has done their homework, and we have made (our) decision.”

Opposition of the site first came at , and . Concerns raised at that time included problems such as traffic issues and aesthetics of the garden at that location; Vanden-Heuvel also pointed to the issue of safety.

“Should we be mixing people carrying garden tools with bike riders?” he asked, adding that the community garden would indeed add costs to the city because of the likely need to send law enforcement to the area.

Ald. Burt Babcock, who also sits on the Parks and Recreation Board, said Strohl studied at least eight sites, and ranked each one based on what would be needed for a community garden.

The Hales Trail site was the board’s second choice, Babcock said. The top choice would have been Westport Meadows Park, but because the area is also used as soccer fields, it just wasn’t going to work.

Port Washington City Adminstrator Mark Grams said the garden will likely go in at the Hales Trail site, unless a council member decides to make issue with it.

No alderman raised any issues Wednesday, and since the garden doesn't require Common Council approval, plans for it will move forward.

That means only thing holding Strohl back from breaking ground just yet is funds.

Strohl estimates the garden will cost about $3,000 to start, but only half that amount will be needed by the groundbreaking this fall — which also needs to happen before the first freeze.

Strohl said he is confident the money will be available.

“I’ve had people offer me money for this project, and I haven’t had to ask for a dime,” he said. “I would encourage (the council) to let the decision that has been made … stand, so that Port Washington can get its first garden.”

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