Two vacant county-owned lots were donated for the project.
By LAURE CIOFFI
VINDICATOR NEW CASTLE BUREAU
NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- People living on the lower east side now have a spot where they can plant brightly colored flowers and, eventually, vegetables.
Slippery Rock University's Community Service Learning Institute dedicated a community garden Tuesday near the spot where it wants to build a community center.
Located at the corner of Court and Pine streets, the two vacant, county-owned lots were donated to the institute for the garden. Another plot of county-owned land, at Walnut and Court streets, has been earmarked for the community center.
Alice Kaiser-Drobney, director of the university's institute, said they are currently working on a master site plan for the community center. It's meant to be a place where young and old people can gather for recreation, education and community events, she said.
The community garden, located about a block away, is the first step toward establishing the community center and activities, she said.
About 30 residents and Slippery Rock University students cleared rocks from the property on June 23 to prepare the ground for the garden and put in a composting bin.
Overseer: Jen Lauzon, a graduate student in SRU's sustainable systems program, is overseeing the garden as part of her thesis project. The university's sustainable systems program teaches college students about organic gardening, managing natural resources and construction that is environmentally friendly.
Lauzon said her goal is to eventually turn the garden over to a committee of residents that will oversee it and allow anyone in the community interested in gardening use it.
Mary Summerville, and her son Jeremy, 17, who live about a block from the garden at 611 Court Street, say they are excited about the community garden and planned community center. Both helped remove the rocks from the lots last month.
"I'm impressed that they came clear from Slippery Rock to do this for our community," Mary Summerville said of the college students. "They could have picked another community, but they chose New Castle."
Seed: Kaiser-Drobney said the project grew out of an after-school tutoring program SRU started in New Castle in 1997. They realized there was no community building where programs could be held and found few open areas where children could play, she said.
"Our college students fell in love with the kids in the neighborhood. We felt that if we had a place where people could meet in their neighborhood, the people in this community would appreciate and value it," she said.
One planter with bright red salvia sits at the edge of the property where the garden is planned. Kaiser-Drobney said three other planters with flowers will be placed in the area and the gardening will get underway soon.