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July 15, 2019 - 3:12pm

Community Garden expands, adapts to changes in leadership and Youth Bureau

posted by Lauren Leone in batavia, community garden, news, Youth Bureau.

The Batavia Community Garden, located at 12 MacArthur Drive next to the Batavia Youth Bureau, is expanding and being reorganized as the Youth Bureau transitions to its new St. Anthony’s at City Church location on Liberty Street.

The Community Garden recently removed its south fence and added a 4,400-square-foot expansion. The extended gardening space allowed for four 4’ x 4’ and four 4’ x 8’ raised beds to be constructed and placed in the garden by volunteers during the United Way Day of Caring in May.

The addition of a 12’ x 16’ wooden pergola is underway and will be completed during the 2020 growing season. The shaded pergola will serve as a community social meeting area within the garden to supplement the existing shaded resting spot.

The Community Garden Advisory Board is also facing changes to its leadership due to vacant positions. These were created when City Manager Martin Moore learned that two volunteer advisory board members, Bob Gray and Carol Boshart, were not city residents as required by a provision in the city charter.

This resulted in the reappointment of those members as non-voting special liaisons to the board. The reassignment caused frustration among board members due to a proposed change to city municipal code that relaxes residency requirements for city employees.

At the June 24 City Council meeting, council members were welcome to a review of the charter in order to reconcile the issue with the advisory board.

“They discussed it and why they had to enforce it. It was a city charter versus a municipal code. But, I’m still here — being a master gardener is a passion,” Bob Gray said.

Gray cofounded the garden in 2011 and served as the former secretary before his Stafford residency caused him to become a non-voting liaison.

“They’ve been very supportive," Gray said of the city, despite his reappointment. "Whenever we need anything, we just shoot them an email and it gets tended to.”

The City of Batavia supports the garden through maintenance work and funding.

Jocelyn Sikorski, Youth Bureau director and Community Garden coordinator, acts as a liaison between the city and the garden. She said that the reorganization of board members has presented some challenges that the board is working to overcome.

“[The special liaisons] were part of the group that started this," Sikorski said. "So, they really are invested and they care about it overall. Those are the people that we want at the table, and I don’t have city residents banging down my door to fill those two vacant spots."

Sikorski recognized that there will be further changes for the Community Garden as the Youth Bureau relocates to its new 114 Liberty St., Batavia, home. The Youth Bureau will continue to collaborate with the garden although the Batavia City School District will occupy its former facility.

“We will probably establish a different type of Youth Garden at St. Anthony’s starting next year," Sikorski said. "We will keep bringing the kids over throughout the end of the summer and into the fall to maintain these beds once we have relocated and close our doors here.”

In the midst of these changes, the garden's community outreach continues. Throughout the season, surplus produce and cut flowers are donated to benefit individuals at Washington Towers and Crossroads House.

“A lot of cities our size don’t have community gardens," Gray said. "This is an asset.”

Photo by Lauren Leone.

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