Land Bank Announces Plan For New Community Garden

Jason Graziadei •

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The Land Bank this week announced plans to build a new community garden off Old South Road on land that was acquired from the Holdgate family in 2006.

The property is connected to the Land Bank's existing "Discovery Playground" that was constructed in 2019. The community garden concept, the Land Bank stated, was the result of a survey conducted earlier this year that showed "overwhelming public interest" in the creation of additional community gardens in convenient locations for year-round residents and families. The Old South Road location was selected after the Land Bank evaluated its properties that might be suitable for such use.

The five-acre area could allow "40 or 50 people to have use of public property to grow food for their family," Land Bank chair Neil Paterson said. "We reviewed four different places and this was the one we decided to go to the next stage of planning with. There's a bike path, there's water, an existing parking lot, and land we own that's already cleared."

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The plan, however, has been met with objections from the Valero family, which owns the adjacent property and has grazed animals on the Land Bank parcel for more than a decade under a hand-shake agreement. The community garden plan would utilize a portion of the land the Valeros currently utilize for that purpose.

Back in 2010, the Valeros sought permission to graze cattle, sheep, and horses on the property, a proposal which was granted by then Land Bank director Eric Savetsky and the elected commission, but was never formalized in a written agreement or lease. The area is a popular spot for island children and others to view the Valeros' farm animals.

Nick Valero told the Current the Land Bank's plan was an "unsafe idea" to have garden food grown next to farm animals, including the family's 1,000-pound bull.

Paterson declined to comment on the objections raised by the Valeros. The Land Bank stated that it remains in the planning phase of the project, and more updates will be released over the coming year.

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