A group of citizens hopes some collaboration with the city can lead to a new gardening space in the downtown area.
Columbus resident Kate Spitz has spearheaded the effort to raise interest in a community garden and approached the Columbus City Council on Tuesday to ask if a piece of city property might be available for the effort.
Spitz moved to Columbus from Wisconsin with her husband about seven months ago. Shortly after arriving, they started a group called Tuesdays Together through the small-business, owner-focused Rising Tide Society. She said the idea for the community garden arose through conversations during the group’s philanthropy month.
Spitz learned of a $5,000 “Sowing for Success” grant available through the Mississippi University for Women that could be used to help create the garden. Then she started working to gather support for it. She said the garden could be used to grow small edibles, wildflowers and other low-maintenance plants.
Supporters, especially people living in apartments in the area, are particularly hopeful to find a garden location downtown or near Main Street, she said.
“We want to give people who don’t have a back yard the opportunity to have a garden,” she said.
The council tabled the matter on Tuesday to allow the city time to look into it, but Spitz said she is excited by the council’s response.
Stephen Jones, who represents Ward 5, said he shares Spitz’s enthusiasm.
“If we can find the right spot, I’m totally in,” he said. “I think it’s a great idea.
“We have to look at what properties the city owns and which one could be a property that could be used for that,” he added. “We wouldn’t want to take a property like the Gilmer that could one day be profitable or that the taxpayers have a lot invested in. If we can find the right property, it could be great.”
In the meantime, Spitz will continue working to raise support in the community ahead of the MUW grant application’s Jan. 13 due date. She said farmers have expressed interest, as well as garden clubs and local business owners.
“People have been coming out of the woodwork,” Spitz said. “There are just a lot of citizens that want to have a green space. Everyone was really, really excited to hear and hopefully be a part of it.”
Melissa Duncan, manager at the Elbow Room, has helped Spitz canvass for support since work on the project began in late October.
She said the restaurant uses fresh ingredients, and she thought it would be helpful to have a place to grow, rather than buy, them. Other business owners have expressed the same idea, Duncan said.
Duncan, who said she’s been heavily active in downtown Columbus since she moved back to the city in 2011, hopes the garden could be a place to promote unity among downtown businesses.
“I’ve always had a passion for downtown Columbus, and one issue I have noticed is an unhealthy amount of competition,” she said. “We’re all just trying to throw each other under the bus to get the next person’s business. I would much rather see every business work together to help each other out.
“I’d love to have a garden to bring people together to grow things, to have a place that’s beautiful to look at and also useful,” she added.
Jones said he thinks anything that promotes unity could be a boon for the community.
“It would be great for the city,” he said. “So many people are divided now that anything we can do to bring people together is a plus for the city and the county, too.”
Alex Holloway was formerly a reporter with The Dispatch.