MILLEDGEVILLE — A native of the Harrisburg neighborhood on the south side of town, Cyndee Edwards is proud to finally see the outside community coming together to provide a safe place for area residents to convene, enjoy recreational activities and find freshly-grown foods.
The Milledgeville Community Garden Association (MCGA) applied for a Knight Community Foundation grant to go toward creating a community garden at the Collins P. Lee Center in the Harrisburg neighborhood. The project was awarded $13,350 in early June 2012 to help move the project idea forward.
“There are still people who grew up here and new people in the area who all want to do things and are still concerned about the neighborhood. It means a whole lot; and even though this is an old neighborhood, there’s still new growth and the energy is still vibrant. It’s good to see things happening that should’ve been done a long time ago,” said Edwards, who also serves as the program manager at the county recreation department. “It also means the community and recreation department are collaborating together to make things happen. It’s going to be a safe environment for kids to play and a place to learn from the classes offered. We have a ways to go, but it’s looking good.”
The project includes a plan to place a fruit orchard, pavilion and nearly a quarter of a mile-long edible walking trail around the maintained property, which was a former elementary school with the kitchen and cafeteria area currently remaining. The fenced community garden includes 22 raised garden beds, consuming a space of around 50 by 100 feet.
“This community actually asked to have this community garden here,” said Haley Dillman, a Georgia College community health major who helped build raised beds at the center Monday. “The walking path will have berry bushes so you can get exercise as you’re getting healthy foods. Milledgeville has an overall high rate in obesity and cardiovascular disease, but if this is successful here, this [project] could be an example to help fight some of these issues in this area.”
The Collins P. Lee Center sits on property owned by the county and is managed by the local Parks and Recreation Department.
“[This project] is becoming a true community collaboration with assistance from various local businesses, the Baldwin County Commission as well as the Parks and Recreation Department,” MCGA Board Member Debbie Harshbarger said. “In addition, Baldwin County Family Connection and the Milledgeville-Baldwin County Habitat for Humanity are focusing efforts in the Harrisburg area to further enhance this community.”
Other local businesses and organizations have already jumped on board to help progress the project, including T&S Hardwoods, T-Bone’s Nursery, Southside Equipment, Fowler Flemister Concrete, HorseDreams Youth Ranch, Milledgeville Country Club, Martin’s IGA, Lockerly Arboretum, Birthflowers, Georgia Forestry Commission, Clark Brothers Plumbing and River of Life.
“We’re going to put in about three frost-proof yard hydrants [Tuesday]. The county is assisting [the project] and helping out this community for no charge,” said Joe Russell, maintenance supervisor for the Baldwin County Water and Sewer Department. “The Harrisburg community consists of over 500 houses, and there’s a lot of kids in this neighborhood. I’m glad to see this happen.”
The First United Methodist Church Men’s Club donated $500 to the project and is encouraging other local churches and organizations to also give back.
“I think this is the way of the future in urban areas,” said Jim Haskins, member of the Men’s Club and project volunteer. “It provides education for kids, food on the table ... and so many different parts of what the community can do.”
The fourth work day is scheduled Saturday with a mission to complete the construction of the garden beds.
“We’re working hard to get the garden completed and have seeds planted for their summer garden, but it will take a couple of weeks to finish the entire garden. In mid-July, anything related to concrete will be done at that time, including the trail and the path to the pavilion. Then we will start construction of the pavilion after that,” Harshbarger said. “We do have plans to build a community garden at Evergreen Baptist Church on Ivey Weaver Road after this project is complete. We hope to start in the late summer in time to plant a winter garden.”
Harrisburg neighborhood resident Michael Hightower hopes to lead by example and instill the meaning of selfless service to his children.
“I went to sixth grade here when it was a school,” he said after emptying a wheelbarrow full of soil Monday. “I want to show my children a good example by getting involved in something so positive.”
For more information about the community project, to provide financial support or donations, call Harshbarger at 478-414-6433, or MCGA Board Member Gladys Ward at 478-453-2565.
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