by Jim Boyle
Christ Church in Otsego is focused on breaking down barriers. And they did just that, literally, when they took their hands and their own heavy machinery to turn some of their unused land behind Super Target into a community garden and path system for anyone to enjoy.
“Our plan is to turn this into an amenity for the folks who live in Otsego or who are just passing through Otsego. Whether they’re with the church or not, we want people to use it and take advantage of it,” said Ron Touchette, a Christ Church member. Touchette isthe CEO of Rock Solid Companies, which represents the Great River Center, the commercial properties adjacent to Super Target and across the street from the new community garden.
The project began a year ago when church members began to formulate plans for their unused land. Their plans are coming along one project at a time.
A large labyrinth of paths has been cleared, treated and smoothed and is ready for use. The paths are accessible by crossing the street from Great Clips in the Great River Center or from the Christ Church parking lot off of 88th Street or 90th Street.
“Our goal here was to create a little oasis away from the hustle and bustle all around us,” Touchette explained.
The site is lower than the surrounding commercial properties and roads, so it feels even more removed from all of the noise and concrete that make up much of our daily lives.
The “prayer paths,” as Christ Church attendees are fond of calling them, are an escape for people and families who work or live nearby and want a quiet place to eat their lunch or go for a walk. The paths and open area garden spaces are a convenient way for one parent to entertain the children while the other parent does some shopping.
So far, four commercial benches and four commercial picnic tables have been donated and are in place throughout the paths and open spaces.
The donations were important, according to Touchette, because, “This project has no budget. But that’s OK. There are lots of folks interested in helping. Whatever needs to be done, we’ll get it done.”
There are a lot of plans for the space. Currently, they’re working on creative solutions of how to get water into the open spaces farther into the path system so they can plant decorative and possibly edible plants. Some of the ideas for plantings include fruit trees, food crops or pumpkins. They hope to give away what they grow, possibly to the food shelf or at community events.
“The Bible talks about first fruits. The first bounty of a garden, you give to benefit others as a tribute. We’d love to incorporate that,” Touchette said.
They’re looking for help from people who have a pension for caring for the land when they’re eventually ready to start planting. They’re also looking for an asphalt professional to donate time and materials to pave the beginning of the path at the parking lot to the first picnic area so that it’ll be handicapped accessible.
But mostly they’re looking for people to make use of the land and be good stewards while they’re there.
Touchette said, “We want people to come and enjoy it, and if they see a piece of trash, they’ll say, ‘Hey, I’ll pick this up and throw it away.’ This is a community garden, and we want it to belong to everybody.”