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First community garden in Malden built along newly paved Northern Strand Trail

Posted by boston.com  September 18, 2013 10:00 AM

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Malden High School teacher Kathy Maglio and her 6-year-old daughter Kimberly volunteer at the community garden spot.

The following was submitted by Clay Larsen, project manager for Groundwork Somerville:

An old abandoned railroad line cutting an industrial swath through Malden is starting to blossom into a vibrant greenway now that the Northern Strand Trail (aka: Bike to the Sea trail) is built and the first offshoot of that – a community garden – has been established.

The idea for the community garden came from Ward 5 City Councilor Barbara Murphy and was built by the city in conjunction with Bike to the Sea Inc. and Groundwork Somerville,  a non-profit dedicated to working with youth to help improve the environment and at the same time the social well-being of the community.

The garden at the intersection of the newly paved trail and Railroad Avenue will have 25 planting beds that Malden residents can adopt for just $20 per year. Community gardeners buy their own plants or seeds but water is provided by the city and some hand tools are kept on site.

“I am an avid gardener and saw value in a community garden.,” Murphy said. “Ward 5 had a large overgrown, weed-infested lot and this was an opportunity to bring an asset to the City of Malden to create a space for people to get out, meet each other, produce vegetables and flowers and build a stronger community.”

Volunteers have been busy building the 50-square-foot beds under the direction of Clay Larsen, project manager for Groundwork Somerville.

Garden space is limited and will be allocated through a sweat equity based lottery system. Volunteers who help build the garden, which is about a 10-minute walk east from Malden High School, will be considered first for available plots. More information about renting a garden bed can be obtained by emailing: bikepathcommunitygarden@gmail.com. 

More Gardens To Come

This is the first community garden in the city but more are being planned along the trail, including one near the Salemwood School and possibly Malden High School, according to Larsen.

“The open space along the Northern Strand bike path represents a brand new greenway in the heart of Malden,” Larsen said. “Our hope at Groundwork is that the bike path community garden at Railroad Avenue will be one of many urban agriculture initiatives along the trail.” 

He added that these gardens, combined with the developing farmers market program, could bring Malden to the forefront of the local food movement in the state.

The idea for the garden first came from Ward 5 Councilor Barbara Murphy who said she brought it to the mayor and later Bike to the Sea, Inc. and Groundwork Somerville.

“I had the vision, but Clay brought it to life,” Murphy said.

Planning for the garden began about three years ago and work started the first week in July of this year.  Three high school students from the Mayor’s Youth Employment Program – Claude Bonnet, Albert K. Fung and Ariana J. Micalizzi -- worked with Groundwork Somerville over the summer to develop the garden.

Funding for the garden came from several sources including a federal community development block grant obtained by the Malden Redevelopment Authority and private donations from Keurig, Inc. and the non-profit organization Seeds of Change. Non-profit partners also included Bike to the Sea, Inc. and the Malden Cultural Council.

Mayor, City Councilor Led Efforts

Mayor Gary Christenson’s office provided leadership, grant-writing support and outreach, Larsen said.  Larsen also noted that Ward 5 City Councilor Barbara Murphy was pivotal in this effort helping to direct federal funds to the project. And she wasn’t afraid to get her hands dirty either.

On Saturday Sept. 7 Murphy could be seen digging in the dirt working with more than a dozen volunteers at the site including a group of Malden High School students from the Malden Teen Enrichment Center.  The volunteers helped build the beds, paint them, and also did some planting.

A grand opening is planned for Saturday, Oct. 26 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.  On that day the public is welcome to tour the garden, listen to a local expert talk about natural habitat gardening, listen to some live music, and maybe even eat a salad made from garden plants.

There are 12 acres of open space along the bike path and plans are being discussed on how best to use it. Some ideas that have been talked about include more community gardens, a dog park, exercise areas with workout stations and mile markers for people who jog or walk along the trail.

“We've always said that the trail will be a canvas that the community will
paint.  The community garden is the first brush stroke,” said Stephen Winslow, co-founder of Bike to the Sea, Inc. “We're so happy to
have neighbors, volunteers and the Malden Teen Enrichment Center lending a
hand building and filling garden beds. Thanks so much to the City and
Keuring for funding this effort and the leadership of Clay Larsen of Bike to
the Sea and Groundwork Somerville and Councilor Barbara Murphy."

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