A science teacher and his students are gathering partners to build a community garden on underused property at Riverview Elementary School.
Teacher Charlie Love has put together what is being called the Seeds Outdoor Inspiration Lab. The outdoor learning project aims to provide assurance that the Riverview neighborhood will continue to have a community garden, with the fate of Ohana Kuleana Community Garden being uncertain.
Last summer, the owner of the Ohana Kuleana Community Garden, Bob Lieb, announced plans to sell the property, located near Riverview Elementary. Since then, there have been a few efforts to try to save the garden, including residents asking the city to purchase the property.
Love often takes his students down to the garden to teach science in an interactive way.
“It’s been a really good program, and a great aspect of our science program for the last nine years,” he said. “I think it’s good for the kids to see people working together and collaborating.”
Love said community gardens create a connection to nature and food.
“I have parents tell me that their kid doesn’t like a certain vegetable, but when they’re the one who grew it, they sometimes find out that they like things that they didn’t like at home,” he said.
With Ohana Kuleana possibly going away, Love decided to begin working on a plan for a new garden.
Durango resident Rod Barker has donated to help with designs and given $100,000 to the Seeds Outdoor Inspiration Lab, which aims to promote STEM education.
“I was thinking of something simple where I could bring the kids for science class, and he elevated that vision to something bigger that’s grown on me,” Love said.
He said another community member who is a parent has committed to donating $150,000 to the SOIL project.
Next steps for the project will be developing a budget for the overall cost, which Love said will be simpler now that some design concepts have been drawn up.
He said he has been working with Durango Parks and Recreation Director Ture Nycum, who is considering donating tools and materials to help the garden come together.
“Now I have something I can take to a contractor and can get some cost estimates,” Love said.
The garden has a five-phase plan, with each phase expanding operations in various ways.
Phase 1 of the project would be getting the garden beds down so residents and students can start planting. Love anticipates the garden beds will be available in time for spring and summer 2023.
When the garden is complete, it will feature garden beds, public demonstration space, orchards, a solar panel pavilion, an aquaponic dome, education stations, chicken coops, a farm stand and a SOIL learning center.