A former T-ball field along Burtner Road in Harrison will turn into a community garden this spring, complete with vegetables, herbs and a tool lending library.
Highlands Partnership Network and Citizens Hose Fire-EMS-Rescue, with the help of State Senator Lindsey Williams, are working to provide fresh food and camaraderie to Harrison residents.
“Our hope is that this garden gives everyone a real sense of community,” said Autumn Monaghan of the Highlands Partnership Network. The non-profit organization was founded in 2018 with a mission to improve the lives of local residents through education, job training, transportation and other initiatives.
A ribbon-cutting celebration is scheduled for March 24 at 11 a.m.
A $50,000 grant secured with help from Williams will enable Monaghan and Citizens EMS supervisor Jim Erb to transform a one-acre lot that adjoins the ambulance service.
“It was a baseball diamond a long, long time ago,” Erb said. “Now this will help provide fresh, healthy food for our Harrison families.”
The ambulance service is housed in the former Birdville Elementary School, which closed in 1989.
Monaghan co-chairs the Highlands Partnership Network with Brackenridge Mayor Lindsay Fraser. There will be a steering committee to help design the garden and provide ways to address food insecurity for people across the municipality.
It is hoped that the garden not only produces food, but inspires camaraderie and a sense of inclusion.
There will be raised beds to grow tomatoes, peppers and other vegetables. In addition, educational programs will be offered on site, with a tool lending library and a self-service bicycle area.
Donated bikes will be repaired and loaned out in an effort to improve mobility in Harrison, Monaghan said.
“It can be difficult to get around here if you’re not driving,” she said.
Organizers hope to kick off the bike program this summer with a fun first family ride on Harrison’s new trail along Springhill Road.
The garden will be a space open to all, where people can walk around and pick their dinner salad or help out with weeding and pruning.
Harvests will be used to support other gardens in the area, such as the Greg Blythe Friendship Garden in Tarentum and the Veggies for All program in the Natrona section of Harrison.
“We want to help make these spaces the best they can be,” she said.
Monaghan thanks the leaders of Citizens Hose for their willingness to collaborate on the project and share their property for a greater good.
“They helped us 100%,” she said. “It will really bring the community together. Right at the start of the plan discussions, I met people I wouldn’t have met otherwise.
“It’s going to give us all a place to go and learn and be outdoors.”