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Published May 07, 2009, 12:00 AM

Gardeners’ mecca planned for lower Chester Bowl

Duluth’s Lower Chester Bowl could become a garden haven as the first project of Friends of the Parks, a new nonprofit group of volunteers.

By: Candace Renalls, Duluth News Tribune

Duluth’s Lower Chester Bowl could become a garden haven as the first project of Friends of the Parks, a new nonprofit group of volunteers.

As soon as this summer, Chester Commons Garden House could offer co-op vegetable gardens and educational programs near 15th Avenue East and Fifth Street. The long underused recreation building there is poised for new life as a gathering place for garden clubs and other groups.

“We’re giving people in the area a place to garden,” Tom Kasper told the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission recently. “Really, the sky’s the limit on what it could become.”

Friends of the Parks, with about a dozen core members, announced its formation at a news conference Wednesday at the Duluth Rose Garden. They vow to support, protect and improve Duluth’s park system.

It was good news for Parks and Recreation Director Kathy Bergen.

“The more that people get involved in the community and ownership of the parks, the better,” she said.

The organization will take on two or three projects a year, raising the money to accomplish them, said Melinda Appold, a Duluth landscape architect who spearheaded the group’s formation.

“The urgency to have it happen now is the result of budget cuts,” Appold said.

Friends of the Parks won’t be doing park maintenance, such as mowing, pulling weeds and trail cleaning. Such tasks are being tackled through other efforts.

“This will really be more project-focused,” said Kasper, the city’s lead park maintenance worker.

Projects could include replacing playground equipment, putting more art in the park or providing the Rose Garden with something the city can’t afford.

The group will move forward on its first project in Lower Chester Bowl after it signs a contract with the city that will allow them use of the recreation building on site. That could happen within days.

Plans for the site include raised gardens and creating a place for all ages to learn, pass on information and be inspired by gardening. Instead of assigning individual plots to gardeners, Chester Park Commons House will have a community vegetable garden that people can come and work on. At harvest time, they’ll share the produce.

Friends of the Parks will set up a Web site with more information including how people can get involved and where to send contributions.

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