By John Burton
RED BANK – Borough residents who were hoping to plant their tomato plants and geraniums in a community garden will have to wait until next year, possibly, as plans for a garden on borough-owned property are on hold.
Cindy Burnham, who has been leading the charge for establishing a community garden, said plans to establish a garden on a parcel the municipality owns on Marion Street have fallen through.
Proponents would work to establish one for spring 2013, she said.
Marion Street was not the location some gardeners had been seeking, insisting the borough council allow them to use 94 West Front St., a 2,400 square-foot plot, next to the borough’s public library and overlooking the Navesink River.
But borough council members said the Marion Street site was the most viable location of any owned by the town. Council members have opposed using the property next to the library, saying that given the limited amount of green, open recreational space in the borough, that site should remain available for more than the handful who would have access to a community garden.
Supporters have been arguing the location is the most ideal of the borough-owned sites because of its accessibility and size. They also have contended that officials have not offered any adequate reason why the site can’t be used for a garden and have questioned whether officials have other plans for the property, possibly selling it off. Mayor Pasquale Menna in the past had denied that assertion.
Burnham acknowledged there wouldn’t be a garden, “not this summer,” because two potential financial benefactors have dropped their support. “They realized this is not the appropriate site for a first community garden,” she said, referring to the approximately 129 foot by 40 foot Marion Street location, a former water utility pumping station, on the borough’s eastern border with Fair Haven.
Several thousand dollars would be needed to remove and dispose of the site’s existing asphalt sections and install water to get the site ready for planting. The benefactors, who Burnham declined to identify, have said, “They don’t even want to be involved with Marion Street,” Burnham said.
Borough Councilwoman Kathy Horgan, who is the council’s liaison to the environmental commission, said last week it was up to Burnham to let the council know about the plans for the Marion Street site. “She hasn’t presented us with anything,” Horgan said.
When informed about Burnham’s take on the issue, especially the money needed to get the garden up and running, Horgan said, “But you know these are things that could have been done nearly a year ago.”
The debate over a community garden had gotten remarkably contentious and heated over the last two years as Burnham and others locked horns with the governing body over its potential location.
Borough officials continued to oppose as inappropriate the West Front Street location, along with plots at Maple Cove’s natural area overlooking the river at the northern tip of Maple Avenue and a spot in Marine Park, a municipally owned and maintained public park. Proponents of the garden had suggested the three sites proposed as the best choices.
Council members, Horgan said, insisted they support the garden but in a space that would be accessible and available in a borough that is almost entirely built out.
“The organizing people in a community garden wanted it in a certain space and they weren’t happy with it any place else,” Horgan said.
Burnham, who lives in Fair Haven but owns a rental property in Red Bank, has regularly challenged the governing body on a variety of issues over the last few years.
The garden supporters will look for available funding to work on next year’s plan, she said.