Jul 21, 2015

Commissioners choose parking lot over community garden plot

One Park County commissioner’s proposed garden paradise will be paved into a parking lot, his colleagues decided last week.

Commissioner Bucky Hall suggested turning a patch of county land across from the Park County Courthouse and Cody High School into a kind of community garden. However, the majority of the commissioners preferred moving forward with plans to turn it into 20 additional parking spots for county employees.

“It’s more valuable to the county as a parking lot,” said Commissioner Loren Grosskopf.

Commissioner Bucky Hall envisioned planting a community garden here, but a majority of commissioners would rather have it paved for parking. Cody News Co. photo by CJ Baker
The property, on the southeast corner of Beck Avenue and 10th Street, sits adjacent to an employee parking lot. While there’s generally plenty of spots in the summer, parking can become scarce when high school is in session. The county removed a house from the property earlier this year.

Hall and University of Wyoming staff horticulturist Bobbie Holder said a garden could grow fruit, vegetables and herbs for low-income families while serving as a place for students and other volunteers to learn gardening.

Hall pitched the value of producing more local food and invoked the lyrics of Joni Mitchell — “‘You pave paradise and put up a parking lot’ kind of thing,” he said — to basically argue that the county wouldn’t know the value of the unpaved space it’s got until it’s gone.

Hall also said the lot could host both the community garden and some more parking, but other commissioners felt the space was too small to share.

“You’re not going to produce enough stuff there,” said Commissioner Tim French, a Heart Mountain farmer, calling it “not a good idea.”

Commission Chairman Joe Tilden wondered if a community garden might prove a target for thieves.

“I can see people walking by and saying, ‘Oh gosh, there’s a nice tomato,’” Tilden said.

The cost also concerned French, Grosskopf and Tilden. Horticulturalist Holder’s proposal called for her performing $6,000 worth of work in the first year, with additional costs for materials such as fencing.

“You’re not going to produce enough stuff there,” said Commissioner Tim French.

Commissioner Lee Livingston wanted to further explore the garden idea. He said it would never be a money-maker for the county, but asked rhetorically, “as far as kids in the community doing stuff over there, what’s that worth?”

Assuming the county moves forward with the paving, First Deputy Park County Clerk Hans Odde said it should mean that the public will be able to find more parking spots closer to the courthouse.

While commissioners may have quashed the idea of a community garden near the courthouse, Cody could still be getting one in the near future.

In an appearance on KODI-AM's "Speak Your Piece" last week, Cody schools superintendent Ray Schulte said the district is considering putting in a garden at the site of the former Sunset Elementary School on 21st Street. Schulte said that might be a good short-term use
of the property.

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