PA Victory Garden a community plot; ground to be broken on Martin Luther King Jr. Day

PORT ANGELES ­– Any way you slice this vegetable garden, it’s good nourishment.

That’s how Richard Bonine, Port Angeles’ recreation manager, thinks of the new Victory Garden on East Fifth Street at Peabody Street.

The 1,400-square-foot parcel of city-owned land, which volunteers will turn into 50 community garden plots Monday, “is what I consider a win-win situation” for the city and for local residents who rent growing space, Bonine said.

The garden patch will have its groundbreaking from 10 a.m. to sundown Monday, as organizer Diane Martin and a team of AmeriCorps volunteers throw a work party.

They will be double-digging the soil to prepare it for springtime planting of vegetables, herbs and flowers chosen by plot holders.

“Bring your tools and come any time,” Martin said.

Monday is Martin Luther King Jr. Day and a national day of service, so she’s hoping to see a healthy turnout of people, shovels and enthusiasm.

The forecast is calling for showers, Martin added, but “that doesn’t scare us.”

This is a rain, snow or shine work party, and if it gets too wet, the focus will turn toward the mosaic project conceived by volunteer Taryn Heisler.

The 3-foot-by-4-foot mosaic will be made of crushed tile and depict a bright sun, a sprout coming out of the earth and the words “community garden,” Heisler said.

A graduate of Evergreen State College who holds degrees in art and sustainable agriculture, she envisions the mosaic as something for children — and anybody who’s had enough of digging — to partake in.

As for the community garden plots, they will be 8 feet by 12 feet and available in March, said Martin.

Rent will be $40 for the whole growing season; that will cover water and basic garden maintenance, while plot holders may want to buy their own soil amendments.

The Fifth Street garden is a first for Port Angeles, Bonine said.

The city bought the property, which is across Fifth Street from City Hall, about 15 years ago, perhaps for a parking lot, though he said it’s not clear anymore exactly what the plans were for it.

The parcel’s future is bright, Bonine believes. It’s poised to provide local people with “a great recreational opportunity: not only to grow some nutritious food, but also to get to know your neighbors.”

Which is why it’s called the Port Angeles Victory Garden.

The name was chosen by Martin and her crew to invoke the grass-roots energy in the victory gardens Americans planted to provide fresh produce for their families during World War II.

And like other public gardens around the state, nation and world, this small piece of land is fertile ground, Martin said, for “the community spirit of people coming together to grow food.”

There are practical needs, of course: tools, a fence and a shed.

“We’re working hard to get donations,” Martin said. “The world is full of orphaned garden tools.”

Community gardens have been thriving in Sequim, Port Townsend and numerous cities across the United States and Canada.

In Port Angeles, the Olympic Vineyard Christian Fellowship at 3415 S. Peabody St. established one in spring 2009, and Martin said it has plots available.

The Fifth Street site, however, is the first city-sponsored community garden for this town.

Bonine said he met Martin at a community meeting awhile back, realized they shared an interest in such a project, “and the idea grew from there.”

They realized they both wanted to get a community garden started; Bonine had access to the land, and Martin had access to volunteers with the energy to transform it from a plain grass lot to an urban farm.

Such connections are “the good thing about living in a small town,” said Bonine, who grew up in Garber, Okla., population 818, according to www.epodunk.com.

To find out more about the garden project or to donate materials, phone Martin at 360-452-3192 or e-mail pavictorygardens@gmail.com. Bonine can be reached at 360-417-3550.

________

Features Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3550 or at diane.urbani@ peninsuladailynews.com.

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