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Legacy Decatur considers adding community garden to Legacy Park

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Legacy Decatur considers adding community garden to Legacy Park

Shelly Roberts, director of programming and volunteers of Trellis (left), and Decatur resident Carson Williford (right) present a proposal for a community garden at Legacy Park to the Legacy Decatur board on Thursday, Sept. 28, 2023. Photo by Zoe Seiler.

This story has been updated.

Decatur, GA — The Legacy Decatur board is considering adding a community garden to Legacy Park. The board, at its Sept. 28 meeting, authorized the Legacy Decatur staff to move toward leasing a space for the garden.

Legacy Decatur is the organization that oversees Legacy Park, which was formerly the United Methodist Children’s Home. Legacy Park is located on South Columbia Drive in Decatur.

The board authorized the Legacy Decatur staff to move forward with negotiating a letter of intent for the concept.

“A letter of intent formalizes the negotiation process and provides an outline for the lease,” Legacy Decatur Executive Director Madeleine Henner told Decaturish. “Because our full board doesn’t meet again until December, a letter of intent gives some structure to go before funders. To make sure the board is still behind the negotiations, the letter of intent has to go through the Master Plan and Executive Committees before it’s executed. If the letter of intent passes through both committees, the lease will go before the board at the December retreat.”

Trellis Horticulture Therapy Alliance and Decatur resident Carson Williford have been working with the Wylde Center to create a community garden space at Legacy Park. The garden would be on the north side of Nickerson Cottage, which is the stone cottage that faces the front lawn.

Trellis Horticulture Therapy Alliance is a nonprofit that offers garden therapy for people who are living with cognitive disabilities, physical disabilities, and mental illness. Trellis currently operates at Callanwolde Fine Arts Center.

“Our therapy groups meet twice a month,” said Shelly Roberts, director of programming and volunteers of Trellis. “Trellis focuses on health and wellness. Our goal is to provide a space for people who are often isolated to come together, to form social connectedness with each other and with our therapists and our volunteers.”

Trellis leads three groups a week that have six participants and two leaders.

For Williford, the community garden is a volunteer passion project. He is an avid gardener, but lives in an apartment that doesn’t have garden space. He searched for a community garden he could walk or bike to but was met with waiting lists. He added that the garden would provide multiple kinds of accessibility.

“Even for me as an able person, I don’t have the space or the land to have my own garden, so this is opening up opportunities for many people living in smaller spaces and in downtown,” Williford said.

The proposal includes several three-foot tall accessible beds for Trellis programs, teaching space for Trellis programs, about 20 community garden beds, a shed to store tools and equipment, and a crushed slate path.

The community garden beds would be rented to individuals in the community. The goal is to have the space ready for planting in May 2024.

“A garden space is a great way to get people moving and to eat the fresh produce that they grow. Research shows that people benefit with their mental health when they’re in an outdoor space and when they’re in the community,” Roberts said. “Also, we think this garden would attract people of all different backgrounds and all different abilities and create a communal space where people would be mingling with each other, sharing tips, and learning from each other.”

A community garden is proposed to be located next to Nickerson Cottage at Legacy Park in Decatur. Photo by Zoe Seiler.

In terms of managing the garden, there would be a five-person board overseeing it. The board would be made up of Roberts, Williford, Trellis Co-founder Rachel Cochran, and two community garden members.

“We would maintain that through ongoing task assignments as well as quarterly workdays,” Williford said. “That was a strategy that we picked up from talking to the Wylde Center and the Henderson Garden in Tucker. That’s what’s worked for them.”

Trellis is also looking to lease Nickerson Cottage and share the space with another nonprofit tenant.

Trellis has put the project together in phases.

“The idea that we had was to start with the Trellis space…and then starting with about 20 community garden beds and then if there’s a lot of interest and wait lists develop, we could expand the community garden space into those beds on the top right quadrant,” Roberts said.

Legacy Decatur still has some details to figure out, like creating a better water source for the community garden.

“There’s a water source on the other side of Nickerson that’s been capped off,” Henner said. “We’ll need to think in more detail about whether we want to go through DeKalb County and install a new meter or do some research with the other community gardens in town to determine how much water usage it is and put that as a flat rate in addition to the space rental.”

According to the agenda, additional community garden space is not in the Legacy Park Master Plan, but “the benefits of shared community space, environmental preservation, and education fit within the overarching goals of Legacy Park.”

Henner said Legacy Decatur that Nickerson Cottage is currently not being leased.

“There has been interest in [Nickerson] and I don’t think that would have any conflict with this group,” Henner said.

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