The plot, located on the corner of Charles Street and North Laura, welcomes children and adults who love to dig in the dirt. Garden members meet every Monday and Friday at 11:30 a.m. to plant seeds, pull weeds and water.
The idea for a community garden began with Ridgway resident Judith Bartlett.
“There is nothing more healthy and secure than a community which can combine resources to grow its own food,” Bartlett said.
The dream was realized in May 2007, when Liza and John Ortman, who have a ranch on Miller Mesa, donated land for the garden. Historically, the Ortman family has donated a great deal of land to the town of Ridgway including plots where the community center, town hall and town park are now.
As a tribute to her grandfather, Liza Ortman always wanted to have the land she inherited from him become the site for a community garden. Last spring, Ortman heard of Bartlett’s vision and the two met and lined out the parameters of the project.
Last fall John Ortman and a crew of helpers cleaned up debris on the site. They also donated and installed a fence that encloses the space. Another group of locals created the growing beds.
The Town of Ridgway agreed to donate water with the stipulation that the community garden use effective water-conserving methods. The town also created a variance in zoning to allow a community garden to be in the historic residential area.
Bartlett and other Ridgway Community Garden members have big plans for the future of the plot. They are going to create a circle garden with a memorial stone to Walther Ortman in honor of his legacy of generosity and community spirit. Also planned are a drip irrigation system, a tool shed and new garden beds sized for both kids and adults.
They also have plans for a composting toilet, because the closest public restroom is at the town park.
Town staff recently drafted an ordinance to allow an enclosed composting toilet on the site (the closest public restroom is in town park). The system, a self-contained unit that uses a small 12-volt fan for venting purposes, is being donated by Alternative Power Enterprises of Ridgway. The waste dries out in a short period of time and will not be used on site.
The garden is currently growing such things as green onions, squash, tomatoes, herbs, potatoes, and radishes. Special beds for kids to work in and experiment with have planted in them quick growing crops such as lettuce and pumpkins so give the kids more of an “instant gratification” experience with gardening.
Tami Malaniak of Ridgway brings her kids to the community garden most Mondays and Fridays. “My kids are able to learn form the get-go about gardening,” said Malaniak. “They learn by playing with dirt, watering and planting seeds. I feel very lucky to have fallen into this great community activity.”