Community garden in Shamokin allows those with special needs to connect
SHAMOKIN - A snip of a ribbon Saturday marked the official opening of the city's community garden at Claude Kehler Community Park.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held by city council and the Self Advocates of Northumberland County, who with the backing of a Degenstein Foundation grant proposed the project earlier this year.
It's the second community garden established with assistance of the Self Advocates, a group sponsored by Parent To Parent Connections of Sunbury, an advocacy group for people with special needs.
The first community garden is in Sunbury next to the Degenstein Library.
"Before we started these projects in 2011 in Sunbury, I had never been able to play in the dirt," said Brian Habermehl, a Self Advocates coordinator who approached Shamokin City Council about the project in March.
Habermehl, who has cerebral palsy, is wheelchair bound. His condition affects his speech and mobility. He has said the garden will allow people with disabilities, physical and mental, an opportunity to interact in the public and feel included in their community.
"Everyone deserves to be a part of the community," he said.
Garden beds raised
The garden is handicap accessible with raised garden beds anchored to a concrete surface. Benches are installed on either side of an open-air seating area where a pergola is installed. Fresh grass, plants and saplings were planted as part of the landscaping. Two charcoal grills were placed on the edge of the garden near the rear of a gazebo previously constructed at the park.
There are eight garden beds in all. They're framed with pressure-treated lumber and covered on the outside with composite decking material. They rest atop aluminum pedestals. A soaker hose is lined on the bottoms of the four large garden beds, allowing them to self-water when water is fed through the line.
They're the right height for a wheelchair, allowing enough space to sit right against the beds. Cutouts in the bed frames allow greater ability to reach into the dirt to dig and plant. Handles are placed on the beds for people to grip and balance.
Next year: vegetables
Mums are planted there for now, serving more as a place-holder than anything else. Come next year the beds are expected to yield a small crop of vegetables open to the public to pick at no cost when ripe.
The budget for the project was $55,000, according to Councilman Bill Milbrand, in charge of parks and public buildings. The Degenstein Foundation provided $20,000 and the city made up the difference with Community Development Block Grant funding. The project came in about $3,000 under budget, he said.
"It's a beautiful place we have here. I hope the community respects it," Milbrand said before turning to Habermehl. "It's all because of you that this is possible."
Milbrand was joined by councilmen R. Craig Rhoades and William Strausser. There were other Self Advocates on hand along with representation from Peer to Peer.
Bill DeVine, of DeVine Construction, designed and built the boxes. He congratulated Habermehl on the project, a project he said he was proud to have worked on.
"This is gratifying to see people actually use them," DeVine said.
Rocky Baer was the architect on the project. Landscape Services did the landscaping and concrete work. Kevin Richardson, the city's street foreman, and other street department employees helped prepare the site.