The College Park City Council approved plans Tuesday to convert an abandoned sand volleyball court in the Old Town neighborhood into a community garden.
As part of the Sustainable Maryland Certified Green Team’s three-year plan, the project contributes to this city’s participation in the Sustainable Maryland certification program, a qualification it won in 2013.
“This is one of the last remaining items [on the plan],” said Steve Beavers, the city’s community development coordinator. “It’s also one of our biggest and most exciting activities.”
The garden will replace the long-unused sand volleyball court at the intersection of Norwich Road and Columbia Avenue.
“One of the poles was removed,” District 3 Councilwoman Stephanie Stullich said. “There were problems with loud late-night games.”
The court is well-suited to be converted to a garden because of its level ground, proximity to a waterline, easily accessible parking and exposure to the sun, Beavers said.
“It’s very sunny and open, which is a problem we had with some of the other sites,” Beavers said. “This is an open area without a lot of trees.”
Its proposed layout includes 36 plots of raised beds, each 5 feet by 10 feet, surrounded by a fence. To fund the project, the city will use $15,000 of the “council-approved capital improvement program budget for sustainability initiatives,” according to the proposal.
Each year, those interested would be able to purchase either one or two beds for $15 each.
Both gardens are so popular with citizens that they have waiting lists, Beavers said.
According to a survey this past year, Beavers said the Old Town garden should enjoy the same popularity.
“It suggested there was tremendous interest,” Beavers said. “We have at least 30 people interested in coming out to volunteer.”
The garden would be run by a combination of city staff and volunteers.
City staff would write the rules of the garden, while residents would be responsible for most administrative duties.
“It’s sort of a hybrid model of an organization,” Beavers said. “We wanted to take the best features of volunteer-run gardens — a lot of participation, active interest — and combine that with the best features of government-run gardens, where they have very solid rules and a system that doesn’t cause many problems because people respect those rules.”
Because students don’t stay in the area year-round, District 4 Councilman Alan Hew suggested students who team up with residents be given priority in plot assignment so the garden could be tended 12 months out of the year.
“[Making] a priority of standing in the selection process for a team-up of a resident and a student would be in the interest of community engagement,” Hew said. “It would keep students involved by having such a coordinated effort with a resident and student.”
Getting students involved is a priority of the project, said Cole Holocker, the student liaison to the city council. University programs like College Park Scholars have already shown interest, Beavers said.
“It’s my hope to get students to buy in to this concept, as well,” Holocker said. “There’s a shared responsibility to keeping this garden well-maintained and taking care of the infrastructure that’s there.”