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Parks to license property to community garden

by Michael Shine | January 12, 2022 at 4:00 a.m.

Jefferson City is looking to have a new community garden in the near future.

The Parks and Recreation Commission approved a license agreement Tuesday with Ubuntu for property at 600 E. McCarty St., which the organization plans to turn into a community garden.

Ubuntu currently runs a community garden and teaches classes at 212 E. Ashley St. The name comes from the African word, meaning "I am because you are."

Jefferson City has two federally recognized food deserts -- or areas where at least 20 percent of residents are below the poverty line and a substantial percentage of residents have low access to a grocery store.

The first food desert in Jefferson City is a triangle generally bordered on the west by U.S. 54; the northeast by U.S. 50/63; and the south by Ellis Boulevard, Chestnut Street, Leslie Boulevard and Moreau Drive.

The second, added in 2021, is in an area near the Southside community. The second food desert is bordered on the southwest by U.S. 50/63; on the north by the Missouri River; on the east by the Moreau River; and on the northwest by Clark Avenue, East McCarty Street, Benton Street, East Capitol Avenue, Sullivan Street, Riviera Street, Riverside Drive and Ellis-Porter Park.

Ubuntu's current location is in the first food desert. While the leased property isn't in either, it is right in between and about five blocks from the second.

Community gardens are generally considered one way to address food deserts.

Parks Director Todd Spalding said the department wants to help community groups do projects that benefit the city.

"We want to be prepared when volunteer groups come to us and say 'we want to do this project or this project,'" he said. "That's were we're at with Ubuntu."

Spalding said there's a number of properties he'd like to see these small gardens in around the city, including a section in the back of McClung Park; a property on Elm Street where officials have discussed adding a park; at the corner of Riviera Street and Riverside Drive near the old shoe factory; two areas in Washington Park; and another in Park Place Park.

Spalding said the department is also looking into other properties owned by the Parks Department.

He got a complete list of parks properties and is starting to go through them to see what all is there and start thinking about potential uses -- like more community gardens.

"We'll be able to share that and identify all these little (pieces of property) that are out there so we know," he said. "This would be a great opportunity to work with other organizations. We've talked about affordable housing and different things. There's some of these properties that I'm convinced in the future could never necessarily be valuable for a park, but we should look at doing some other things with."

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