ELIZABETH, NJ – Elizabeth is becoming greener this spring, thanks to the efforts of dozens of volunteers who descended, April17, on two, empty plots to create community gardens at the Elmora branch of the Elizabeth Public Library and at the Elizabeth Housing Authority’s Mravlag Manor
The projects were spearheaded by Groundwork Elizabeth, and Executive Director Jonathan Phillips ,Farm and Garden Director Jackie Park Albaum and staff were joined by David Glass, Deputy Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Assemblywoman Annette Quijano, Riche Outlaw, Joe Donald from the NJDEP, nearly 70 dedicated volunteers from the NJDEP for their Third Annual Volunteer Day with Groundwork, and another 20 volunteers from the community.
The group built 50 community plot garden beds at the Elizabeth Library, Elmora branch, and 52 plot garden beds at the Elizabeth Housing Authority's Mravlag Manor site, including handicapped accessible beds at both sites. According to Groundwork Community Gardens Coordinator Adrienne Kubicz, all the beds at the library are already reserved, and there is a waiting list. Beds are still available at Mravlag Manor. To get on the waiting list, residents can sign up at the library. To reserve a bed at Mravlag Manor, residents can sign up at Bayway Family Success Center. The gardens will be managed by the community under the guidance of Groundwork Elizabeth.
Phillips was thrilled by the volunteer response. “This is the third NJDEP volunteer day and it demonstrates to our community that the Department and its staff are committed to making proactive environmental improvements in Elizabeth and nearby neighborhoods in Union County,” Phillips said. “Deputy Commissioner Glass truly understands the impact his volunteers are making in transforming our urban neighborhoods from areas of challenge to areas of vitality.”
A year ago, the DEP awarded a $250,000 grant to Groundwork Elizabeth’s Come Grow With Us! Community Gardening Program, which was the inspiration of Assemblywoman Quijano, an advocate of community gardening, to improve access to healthy foods and to develop environmentally focused career opportunities in Elizabeth, Union Township, and other urban areas of Union County. The agency has also sponsored Groundwork’s Permaculture Education Agricultural Systems (P.E.A.S.), a collaborative association of governmental partners, the private sector, faith-based organizations, community-based groups, local educators and the community. The goal is to develop a locally sustainable food system that combats rising obesity rates, declining health conditions, and increasing costs with the production and transportation of food.