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Fourth Ward Alderman Donald Wilson and Ninth Ward Alderman Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, say they think Grey Park, at the corner of Main Street and Ridge Avenue, is not being used to its capacity.

One proposal to increase the use of the park by creating a new sit – the fifth in Evanston – for community gardens there. This would also help reduce the “huge” waiting list for community garden plots in the City.

The community garden idea emerged as a real possibility at a Sept. 16 community meeting to discuss options for Grey Park, but “nothing has really gelled” since then,  Ald. Wilson said.

“I would love to have a community garden in Grey Park,” said Ald. Burrus. But the cost of water and fencing may make it difficult if not impossible, at least in the near future, she added.

The City currently has about 210 community garden plots available for rental, said Karen Tiara, an environmental educator at the Ecology Center.  The plots are in four different parks: Lighthouse Park, the Ecology Center, Twigg Park and James Park.

Since 2008, the City has had to turn away people interested in renting a plot (rental fees in 2010 are $75 for a full plot, half that for a half plot, according to the City’s website). The waiting list currently stands at 30 to 40, nearly all of them left over from 2009. “We usually have 10 to 12 plots turn over every year,” said Ms. Tiara. Grey Park would be a welcome addition. “Another South Evanston site would be ideal,” she added.

A community garden “gets you thinking about sustainability,” said Ald. Wilson.

“Gardens work as educational tools and to build community. They focus attention on eating locally grown food and limiting the transport of food great distances. With so much of our food coming from a few producers like corporate giants ADM and Cargill,” said Ald. Wilson, “a food crisis could result if one of those corporations were to fail. … People said GM was too big to fail,” he added.

Ald. Burrus says she is thinking beyond community gardens and Grey Park. The parkway between the sidewalk and road can be garden space if people are willing to use their own hoses to provide water. “I am also pro-chicken,” she added.