Community Garden Plans Hit Snag as Welch Street Residents Speak Before City Council

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WAUPUN — The City’s plans for this year’s community garden hit a snag Tuesday night, with a number of residents expressing their concerns about the current location for the community garden. Last month, the Board of Public Works and City Council approved an empty plot on Welch Street as the location of the community garden for this year.

Welch Street residents Pat Reifsnider, Todd Dahl, and Kevin & Joann Hamus attended the City Council meeting Tuesday evening to raise their concerns about the planned location for the Community Garden this year, an empty lot on Welch Street.

Pat Reifsnider was the first to speak, describing her hobby of cultivating milkweed and raising endangered monarch butterflies. Her primary concern was about pesticides being used in their neighborhood when they have their own lawns and gardens to tend to.

Todd Dahl addressed the council to echo Reifsnider’s statements, and suggested using a more neutral location such as a city park for the community garden. Dahl described a number of benefits to such a plan, including having an established source of water and public bathroom facilities. Kevin Hamus also spoke about privacy concerns should the gardens be placed on Welch Street.

The residents primarily had McCune Park in mind as an alternate location, but discussed a list of alternatives with Alderman Westphal who represents that district that Welch Street resides in.

In response to these concerns, the City said they never use pesticide on the community garden.

After a bit of discussion Mayor Bishop gave a short history of the community gardens, as well as mentioning that in the previous neighborhoods where the community gardens were located the residents really enjoyed having it there.

The community gardens were originally in the back of the old Christian Grade School at 520 McKinley St, which was torn down to make space for the new Senior Center Facility which will be starting construction later this year. When the City acquired the lands and tore down the old school, the community gardens moved to Moorman Street in the industrial park, which was found to be an unsuitable location.

Moorman Street is outside the city proper in the industrial park, which felt unfit for a community gardens. The area also had poor soil quality that little was able to grow in according to the garden authorities. There was also a problem with flooding when it rained, further stifling the gardens.

The Welch Street lot chosen for the community garden is owned by the City and has been empty for many years. It was chosen because it was in-town and had street lamps to light the area at night which would feel safer to members of the community using the gardens.

Mayor Bishop admitted that it’s difficult to get people to care about an issue until it is too far along in the process, expressing concern on postponing the establishment of the gardens for much longer as the start of the growing season is quickly approaching. While the City would like to have the gardens set up as soon as possible, if an agreement can’t be made the gardens would have to be suspended for the year.

Fire Chief DeMaa said that it would be preferable for the garden to be in a location that already has running water, as without running water, water tanks would have to be set up which the Fire Department has to fill 5-10 times a year.

The Council agreed to put it on the agenda for the next meeting, which is scheduled for April 25th.

Proposed lot for the community garden on Welch Street.

Updated 4/25/23: one of the Welch Street neighborhood residents who attended the meeting retracted their statements regarding the Community Garden and requested to have their name removed from the article.