First community garden on city property waiting for water

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Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo, second from right, and Vertex Railcar Corp. CEO Don Croteau break ground on the community garden at Portia Mills Hines Park on Oct. 31, 2015.
Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo, second from right, and Vertex Railcar Corp. CEO Don Croteau break ground on the community garden at Portia Mills Hines Park on Oct. 31, 2015.

Last August, the City of Wilmington passed an ordinance allowing community gardens to be built on city property such as parks. In November, ground broke on the first of those community gardens, located at Portia Mills Hines Park.

Since then, a pollinator garden, which is mostly full of native plants, has been installed at the location, but the planned community vegetable garden has not yet been planted.

Though a full planting was not scheduled until the fall, there is one issue that could delay that plan: The park currently has no running water taps.

“It’s in the process of getting taken care of, but it’s really out of our hands at this point,” said Heather Kelejian, program director of the Ability Garden at the New Hanover County Arboretum, one of the groups involved with the Portia Mills Hines garden project.

According to Dylan Lee, a spokesman for the city, staff are going through the steps to bring water to the park, located north of Grace St. between 10th and 11th Streets near downtown.

“They are following protocol and working through the various administrative hurdles to get water to that park,” said Lee. “It is a significant job, as there is absolutely no water there right now, but we’re shooting for having that water available for fall planting.”

Lee said it is not unusual for the smaller city parks like Portia Mills Hines, which only occupies a couple square blocks, not to have running water. Though the timeline for getting water lines is unclear, the funding for the project has already been secured.

“The money for the pipes is being gifted from the Blue Ribbon Commission,” said Lee, citing a local youth violence prevention organization that is heavily involved with the community garden. “The city will not be spending their own money on it.”

The city also will not be spending money to get water to the second community garden on city property, which is planned for a vacant lot near the intersection of Dock and Magnolia Streets, about half a mile from Portia Mills Hines Park. According to Lee, the volunteer group that applied to create that garden will be funding a water tap there.

As for the Portia Mills Hines community vegetable garden, Kelejian said things will move quickly once the water is available.

“It’s not going to take too long to get the garden ready for planting,” said Kelejian. “We’re pretty confident we can stay on schedule, and we will still be providing healthy vegetables for the community.”

Kelejian said the residents have been patiently waiting, but are eager for the project to come to full fruition.

“They’re really excited about it, just as we are,” Kelejian said. “They’re really looking forward to having that community centerpiece in their neighborhood.”