Group asks to build garden in Shamokin lots
SHAMOKIN - A community group asked city council Wednesday to accept its offer to establish a public garden in Shamokin.
Brian Habermehl and Helen M. Lytle, of Self Advocates for Northumberland County, say they have the financial backing of the philanthropic Degenstein Foundation to pay for a handicap-accessible community garden in the city. All they need is a site.
Steve Bartos, city clerk, said there are options. He named a handful during the council workshop session, including a lot near Independence and Rock streets and a lot near Market and Arch streets.
The Self Advocates presented a slideshow on a community garden established in a lot next to Degenstein Library in Sunbury where several raised garden beds were installed on a concrete surface. More than 70 pounds of fruit and vegetables like strawberries, carrots and potatoes were harvested by Sunbury area residents.
People can simply walk by and take what they please, Habermehl said.
Habermehl has cerebral palsy. He's wheelchair bound, and the condition affects his speech and mobility. He noted that despite the impact of the disease on the sound of his voice and that he gets around "a little bit differently," he holds a political science degree from Susquehanna University.
The garden, he said, could be a place where people with or without disabilities can interact. He called the act of gardening "therapeutic."
"We get to shake hands and smile and say, 'I did this.' That's a beautiful thing," he said.
Lytle added that anyone would be able to seek a garden bed for use, for food or flowers; they need not be handicapped. Women from a highrise or members of a community organization could participate, she said as an example.
Bartos said the Self Advocates not only bring grant money to the table, but also would turn over the handicapped-accessible garden to the city when it's constructed. Such a site could be added to the city's insurance plan, he said.
Any matching funds for grant money is available through the city's Community Development Block Grant program, Bartos said.
Michael Snyder, city councilman, raised concerns about vandalism. Habermehl and Lytle admitted those concerns existed with the Sunbury garden, too. There's been next to zero acts of vandalism so far, they said, and for those who've done so, or those who may pose a threat, they've learned about the garden and have embraced it, or in the least have left it alone.
"You deal with it," Habermehl said matter-of-factly.
The proposal will be voted on at Monday's monthly meeting of city council at 7 p.m. inside City Hall, 47 E. Lincoln St.
Another group of local residents had raised the idea to city council six months ago about the establishment of a community flower garden.