A total of 18 community garden plots were quickly claimed by Village of Waterford residents this spring. The gardens, which are on a vacant, village-owned lot at the corner of Main and Milwaukee streets, were championed by Village Board Trustee Robert Nash. (Photo by Tracy Ouellette)

Waterford residents rave about community plots – even if they are temporary

By Chris Bennett

Correspondent

Mary Heebsh of Waterford can hardly wait to harvest her tomatoes.

Heebsh lives in the house next to the new Waterford Community Garden, which is in a vacant lot at the corner of Main and Milwaukee streets where a car wash once stood.

Heebsh is gardening the plot closest to her home. She planted a small garden once in her backyard, but said that it didn’t work out well. She is hoping to start picking tomatoes around the Fourth of July.

“I like that it’s pretty, and it’s definitely a change from the car wash we had to stare at,” Heebsh said. “It’s definitely a welcome change that I hope will stay for many years.”

The garden became official after board approval at the village’s April 13 meeting, which took place virtually due to concerns from COVID-19.

Waterford’s Public Information Officer Colleen Schauer said Trustee Robert Nash drove the process to bring the garden to life. Heebsh said she planted sometime in the first half of May.

Schauer said the garden is an effort by the village to give people outdoor options in the midst of a pandemic.

“Sometime in April discussion started early on about what we could do during the pandemic to get more of a sense of community,” Schauer said. “We said, ‘What about doing a community garden?’”

The garden is open to Waterford residents. Schauer said gardeners claimed every open spot within two weeks.

Nash worked with Jim Bergles, Waterford’s Director of Public Works and Utilities, to get the physical portion of the project underway.

The project relied on donations from the community. Schauer said all the material and labor was donated. A sign at the garden lists all the donors.

Waterford’s Public Works Department built boxes so the garden would be raised, and also smoothed the topsoil and installed a water tank. Schauer marked the plots, and a colleague designed the layout.

There are three boxes per row, and each box is divided in half. The garden can serve 18 people. The boxes are 4 by 6 feet.

“I was surprised the plot is as large as it is,” Linda Ruesch said. “I was surprised I was able to plant the amount of vegetables I did.”

Ruesch said she planted squash, green beans, beets, sweet corn and carrots. Heebsh planted peppers, tomatoes, broccoli and basil.

Ruesch said she enjoys the opportunity to garden again.

“We have downsized, and I have always done gardening as a hobby of mine,” Ruesch said. “I don’t have space to do it where we’re living.

“This gives me a chance to do my gardening hobby.”

Heebsh said she often takes the children she watches at All About Kids Child Care Center, located at 237 North Milwaukee Street, to the garden for fun.

“I work with the kids for their programs, and I’m able to walk the kiddos down here,” Heebsh said. “We learn about planting.”

The future of the garden is open to debate. Schauer said room exists to add two more rows.

However, the land is a village-owned lot that is for sale, and is expected to eventually be sold and re-developed, which would likely force the garden elsewhere – if it continues.

“I think I’ll have to see how it plays out,” Ruesch said. “At this point in time, I hope they keep doing it.”

Heebsh pointed out there are parcels of land in Waterford that have sat open for years, and been co-opted for other temporary uses. She mentioned how every winter the village puts an ice rink on the lot where the bowling alley once stood.

“The lot where the bowling alley used to be has been vacant since I was in elementary school,” said Heebsh, who attends UW-Superior for elementary education. “I’m cautiously optimistic it will be there next year.”