Sandpoint Library set to break ground on garden

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While still being updated, this drawing shows plans for the East Bonner County Library’s garden, which will be adjacent to the Sandpoint branch. (Rendering courtesy MIKE BAUER)

SANDPOINT — The Sandpoint branch of the East Bonner County Library District will soon provide edible education to its patrons.

The installation of a new garden adjacent to the library starts Saturday, with the goal of bringing the community together to explore, create, grow, share, connect, and learn in a beautiful interactive community garden setting, said Mike Bauer, library adult programming coordinator, in a statement.

"During the library's recent expansion, we acquired the adjoining property and thought, 'What a good idea it would be to create a special outdoor place for everyone to create, grow and learn," Bauer said. "Organizations and members of the community have been so supportive of this project, and we're finally ready to put a shovel in the ground and make it a reality."

The garden is intended as an outdoor classroom, with visible activities that tie the library and community together, Bauer said. The garden will involve all ages in the enrichment in science, technology, literacy, food production, nutrition and art experiences.

The garden has been a collaborative effort as the library has received support from volunteers from the library and several community organizations. A $5,000 grant received by the Bonner County Coalition for Health from the National WIC Association went toward the garden in an effort to promote childhood health with the purchase of eight raised garden beds with an automatic watering system. Funding has also been received for a large portion of the fencing, Bauer said.

The National WIC Association provided the initial $5,000 to get the work started and off everyone went to create a beautiful space for education and experiential learning,” said Nanci Jenkins with the BCCH, in an email to the Daily Bee. “Because of the WIC grant, some of the space will be used for edible produce to help us feed and educate library patrons. It is an amazing collaborative team. I feel like every time we meet someone brings something new and wonderful to the table to enhance the vision of this project.”

Grants awarded for fencing came from the National Association of Realtors and Idaho Forest Group. The library has also received grants from Panhandle Health District for the sun shelter, and the Kinnikinnick Native Plant Society for a native plant educational display.

The Bonner County Coalition for Health was formed as a result of a grant Panhandle Health received called the Community Partnership for Healthy Mothers and Children, Jenkins said. It was a CDC funded grant distributed to PHD by the National WIC Association. Community members meet once a month to discuss the health needs of the county, she said, and to create solutions that are most likely to work in the local environment. One of the groups named themselves, “Harvesting Our Health.”

The group chose to spend their efforts on enhancing the school gardens that has already started in the Lake Pend Oreille School District, and expand those gardens to all of the schools in the district. They also began creating other community gardens.

“Michele Murphree is the guardian angel and driving force behind most of these garden projects,” Jenkins said. “She has done a remarkable job aligning stakeholders and funders with gardens in need of enhancement.”

Murphree, Food for our Children board member, was instrumental in installing gardens in at many of the local schools, as well as the food bank and Early Head Start.

"I am so proud of our community," Murphree said in an email to the Daily Bee. "We have come together to create a garden at each of our elementary schools, Lake Pend Oreille High School, Forrest Bird Charter School, Home School Academy; and new community gardens at the food bank, Early Head Start, Christ Our Redeemer Church and, now, at the library. Beyond learning how to grow produce, this new garden will offer many educational opportunities and a very special and nurturing gathering place."

Jenkins said at the end of the grant funding cycle, representatives from the National WIC Association flew in from Washington, D.C., to evaluate the work of the BCCH.

“They were very impressed with all of the Bonner County Coalition for Health projects, and asked if we had other ideas in the works,” Jenkins said. “We were aware of the new library project and the space next to the library, and had been thinking about how to make that an edible garden somehow. Fortunately, Mike Bauer with the library was able to mobilize the needed forces to get approval and be able to move forward with the planning of that space for some sort of a garden project.”

In addition, Jenkins said, Suzanne Davis, youth programming and services coordinator with the library, was interested in using it to educate children, all of which “fit right in” with the National WIC Association’s goals for increasing access to healthy and affordable food for kids.

Plans have been drawn up, work projects scheduled and the landscapers have finished work in the area, Bauer said, and it is time for the community to come together and put those plans in motion.

The hands-on work date is from 8 a.m. until noon on Saturday, with volunteers meeting at the quonset hut next door to the library. Work will include installation of eight vegetable garden beds and the drip irrigation system. The beds will be filled with soil and vegetables will be planted, and 78 feet of temporary fencing will go up.

"I’m so excited to be a part of it and watch it unfold," Jenkins said.

Volunteers are asked to please bring specific tools if they have them, including T-post drivers, shovels, garden rakes, post hole diggers, pvc pipe cutters and two wheelbarrows.

Mary Malone can be reached by email at mmalone@bonnercountydailybee.com and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee.

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