A Garden of Eden for lovers of things leafy
At first glance, all that can be seen at the Marolt Open Space is knee-high grass and maybe a paraglider who has just landed.
Beyond a rise, however, lies the community garden, a gathering spot for lovers of things leafy and a longtime community tradition.
About 15 Aspen locals currently use the plots to grow gardens that they can’t have at home. Plots are available for $40 per year. People may work in the garden whenever they want, and build their plots to their liking.
There is a general set of rules for people to follow, but the plots belong to those involved. The basic rules include people harvesting only their own crops and putting the community tools away in a shed that all plot owners can access.
C.P. Kanipe, who runs the garden, also hopes people will “be sort of community-minded, and chip in and help out whenever they can.”
“Community-minded” projects include things like making sure the watering system, which includes a set of sprinklers that waters every plot in the garden, is working. Gerry Sullivan, a first-year plot owner, trims the walkways when they need it, and has fixed up the entrance to the garden.
Although this is Sullivan’s first year using the garden, he is a landscaper who has lived in Aspen for more than 20 years. Sullivan said he finally “got tired of not having [his] own garden” and decided to take advantage of the community garden.
He now works there on a daily basis, tending to his flowers and a few fruits and vegetables.
People are encouraged to add their own touch to their gardens, by landscaping, adding greenhouses, or in other ways. Sullivan has his own personally designed scarecrow, Bo Jangles, in his plot.
“There’s a family here,” said Kanipe. While people own their individual plots, there are “people’s” chives and raspberries, which all plot owners can enjoy.
Sometimes quite a few people can be seen working together at the garden, and other times only one or two people can be found weeding and seeding their plots. Kanipe says that being “outside in a beautiful place, doing something you think is productive” is rewarding.
Many people stay at the garden socializing when they are done for the day; there are lawn chairs and patio areas where people can sit and talk. There are also places for children to play among the trees and on a swing while their parents are working in the garden.
Some children prefer working with their parents in the garden. Even the Waldorf kindergarten has its own plot. Their main crop is potatoes, which the kids plant in the spring and harvest in the fall.
Kanipe said she often watches children learning how to plant crops. “It’s so nice in the spring for the kids to be surrounded by nature.” When it comes time to harvest, the real excitement kicks in and the kids get to see the results of their work. “You’d think it was buried treasure the way they squeal and scream,” Kanipe said.
The community garden was started 20 years ago by local Ed Compton, who lived at the nearby Senior Center. Kanipe has been involved since 1982, when she helped kickstart the garden after lack of use gave way to weeds. Kanipe said gardening isn’t among her favorite things to do, but she says owning and working a plot is “a real nice way to meet people in the community.”
There are many plots available in the garden this year, so anyone interested in owning a plot should contact Kanipe. While it is probably too late to grow anything this year, people can still get a plot and plan for next year.
It is also possible to plant things that will come up next spring. That way, people “can start harvesting food even before [they’ve] planted anything. There’s something that feels really good about it,” Kanipe says.
The garden’s location near the construction area of the roundabout has been a cause for concern. The present plans for construction, however, will not affect the garden. That’s a relief to plot owners who have found a little quiet space amid the hustle and bustle that is modern-day Aspen.
“You finish, stand up to stretch your aching back, look up and say, `God, it’s gorgeous!’ ” said Kanipe.
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After nine months of being shuttered due to the COVID-19 crisis, the Wheeler Opera House will reopen for local acts. A touchless reservation system will be open to 53 people for in-person at the venue. Online live streaming also will be available.