New community garden to spring up in Basalt | AspenTimes.com

New community garden to spring up in Basalt

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

BASALT – Basalt residents with green thumbs will have a chance to get their hands dirty next spring in a planned community garden that offers room to grow.

A management plan for open space next to Basalt High School will set aside up to an acre for community gardening after the Pitkin County Open Space and Trails board of trustees suggested last week that a half-acre might not be sufficient.

“I’m a little concerned that we have waiting lists for gardening space,” said board member Hawk Greenway.

“A half-acre is a lot,” said Gary Tennenbaum, Open Space and Trails land steward. Devoting an entire acre would be “a huge community garden,” he said, but board members urged him to designate an acre nonetheless, even if it isn’t all cultivated at the outset.

Part of the future garden has already been tilled; a fence to protect the anticipated vegetable crop from foraging deer and other critters will go up in the spring, Tennenbaum said. A water source for the garden has yet to be formalized, but a line from the town’s new water tank on the hillside above the plot runs past the garden site.

The garden is part of the 25-acre parcel formerly known as Sopris Chase – the name of a proposed residential development that did not come to pass. Open space officials want a new name for the land and are urging the Town of Basalt, a partner in the purchase of the property last year, to suggest one.

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The proposed management plan for the parcel will go before the Basalt Town Board on Tuesday.

The Mid Valley Community Garden Collective, involved in the town’s only community garden at present – the 15-plot Homestead Garden – will be involved in overseeing the new one.

“This is something we’re really enthused about,” said Gerry Terwilliger, representing the collective. About 70 people have, at one time or another, expressed interest in having garden space.

The garden will be placed on about 6 acres of pasture that is part of the open space. The remaining agricultural land will be used to grow hay, pending interest in other agricultural endeavors.

Greenhouses, row crops, hay production and livestock pasture are among the other potential uses, according to the management plan. The Open Space and Trails board has informally agreed to make local food production among its missions, but accommodating greenhouses on open space will require formal amendment of the program’s policies, according to Dale Will, executive director.

The pasture is also identified for cross-country skiing in the wintertime, allowing expansion of nordic trail grooming that already takes place on the adjacent Rio Grande Trail and on the high school property. An upper bench of the open space will allow for some fun terrain, according to Tennenbaum.

“You’re not just out in the pasture, skiing around,” he said. “It’s going to be pretty cool if it just will snow.”

Last winter’s lack of snowfall at lower elevations put a crimp on nordic skiing in the midvalley to a large degree.

The open space parcel also provides access to Light Hill to the south and west – federal land managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Motorized use of the open space has been prohibited already. Potential further limitations on access to Light Hill, which contains critical winter big-game habitat, will be determined in consultation with the BLM and Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Tennenbaum said.

janet@aspentimes.com