Example of the raised garden beds EDA has constructed in other county communities. Photo courtesy of EDA

The committee of Forest Folk did their homework and came well prepared to seek support for a community garden from the County Service Area 36 Advisory Committee. What they had not counted on was the support the County Economic Development Agency proffered.

EDA has experience in planning and creating community gardens. They offered to bring that expertise to the Hill garden. The Folk produced diagrams showing 13 raised bed containers, fruit trees, a pumpkin patch, a storage container, a water storage tank and picnic tables for a plot of land in Mountain Center owned by Chapel in the Pines.

Since well water and electricity to operate a well at the Mountain Center site could be a problem, the plan is configured with a storage tank that would rely on water being brought to the site. The Folk also came with sample agreements and contracts under which the garden, available to the entire wider Idyllwild community, could operate.

Mike Franklin, county EDA CSA 36 representative, said at other gardens EDA had built, it graded the ground, built the beds, brought in the soil, ran the watering lines and provided the operational agreements by which the garden functions. In the county model, there are no fees that gardeners have to pay to use the beds, just agreements about how they would work communally with other gardeners.

Costs to supply these initial infrastructure elements would come from CSA 36 funds if the advisory committee so authorized. They did authorize Franklin to contact the county Parks and Open Space Department to see about the feasibility of using part the Idyllwild County Park. Franklin had suggested that possibility. He noted that in other community gardens a primary purpose was to involve gardeners of all ages, with seniors mentoring children, and participation by people of all economic strata.

Franklin indicated that once the initial infrastructure was in place, a nonprofit or group of nonprofits would manage the garden.

In other business, the advisory committee asked for an update on the Town Hall lease. The Idyllwild Chamber of Commerce has several concerns and consequently has not signed a new lease yet.

Franklin noted that once an agreed upon lease is signed by the chamber, the county could replace the playground at Town Hall. The playground had been closed since inspection by the county Human Resources Safety Division. The inspection identified a number of structural deficiencies, as well as non-compliace with the Americans With Disabilities Act.

The approximately $30,000 replacement costs would come from now-available Community Development block Grant funds, similar to the support for the library, and not from CSA funds.

Advisory Committee Chair Bob Schraff inquired about the county inspection report of Town Hall itself. The report, based only on a visual inspection, indicates a number of fixes that must be made, none of them major at this point in time. Schraff noted that proper safety labeling of the propane tank and installation of a new regulator were important, as was removal of other cited hazards.