BELDING — When Andrea Belding and Valarie Dawdy first took on the task of creating a community garden, they didn’t expect it to be a two-year endeavor.
But as rain trickled from the sky onto freshly planted flowers and vegetables at the new Belding Community Garden during a ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday afternoon, it was evident those two years of patience and hard work were well worth the final result.
“I think it’s just good to know that it has finally come to this point,” said Dawdy, smiling and ignoring the increased rain falling around her. “I feel like we, as a community, have worked so hard and now to see it taking place, it’s a vision realized.”
The new garden, located at 541 Orchard St., across the street from Woodview Elementary School, contains 16 gardening plots which are free to the public.
According to Belding, eight of the 16 plots have already been filled, but residents can fill out a request to garden a remaining plot by picking up a form at city hall or visiting the city website, www.ci.belding.mi.us.
“It’s just beautiful and I’m so happy that we’ve finally reached this point because it has been a long process,” Belding said. “To see everybody come today, brave the rain and celebrate with us, it’s been very nice.”
The process, Belding said, began in May 2010 when she was approached by Dawdy about creating a community garden.
From there, struggles developed throughout the process, including choosing an acceptable acre to build the garden upon as well as having to change a city ordinance that prohibited the construction of a community garden.
As a member of city council, serving as mayor pro tem, Belding was able to orchestrate a change in the ordinance that was voted through by members of city council.
As far as choosing a location for the garden, Belding Area Schools officials agreed to offer an acre of land across from the elementary school.
“On behalf of Belding Area Schools, we are very proud and happy to make this area available for such a great project,” said Board of Education President Tom Humpreys. “I think it’s a really good example of government, schools and a community pooling efforts and resources to make something like this available.”
Humpheys said the garden will be used as a tool for students as teachers throughout the district will incorporate the garden into their curriculum.
“This is an excellent opportunity for our students to get some hands-on experience and to participate in the community,” he said. “There’s a lot of great things happening in our community and people just need to look around and see them for what they are.”
According to Belding, more than $5,500 was raised by the “Build a Garden” campaign, but donations from community businesses, organizations and families helped keep the cost down to at least half of what was originally budgeted.
City Manager Randy DeBruine said the extra effort from those donations will go a long way in bringing members of the community together.
“It really has taken a lot of work to make this possible,” he said. “There are numerous benefits to having a community garden in the city. We have a lot of existing parks, but this is a much different kind of park. People who have similar interests in gardening can come here and work together. The list of benefits goes on and on.”
For Dawdy, she now hopes her original goal of getting Belding residents to eat a little healthier can go a step further.
“My passion is to get our kids eating more vegetables and fruits,” she said. “I hope this helps members of the community in that regard, I really do.”