By Sam Elliott
One of the Fishers Parks and Recreation Dept.’s most popular additions this summer sits at the back of Cyntheanne Park, 12383 Cyntheanne Rd. Home to the city’s first public community garden, it’s a place where both first-time and green-thumb gardeners can get their hands dirty as they cultivate flowers, produce, fun and fond memories with friends, family and fellow gardeners.
“There have been a lot of questions and demand from residents for this type of offering,” Fishers Parks and Recreation director Tony Elliott said. “It’s something we looked at for our parks for a long time, but just hadn’t had the right opportunity or space to do it.”
A partnership with Shane’s Outdoor Living and Landscapes, located in Fortville, led to converting an empty field at Cyntheanne Park into a patchwork of 40 plots measuring 10-feet by 10-feet plus 10 beds raised a few feet off the ground that are 4-feet by 8-feet.
“It was all pretty much just a field,” Shane’s Outdoor Living and Landscape Designer Andrew Helmkamp said. “We scraped everything off and brought out a bunch of rocks and better soil and built the boxes. We assembled them at the shop and then brought them out here.”
“We were out here when they first opened and it was great to see all the families out here together,” marketing coworker Molly Smith said. “We had moms and dads and kids and grandparents all getting their gardens together and figuring out where they’re going to put things.”
The Parks and Recreation Dept. opened registration for the community garden plots in March for $20 for the spring and summer season. Although he expected demand to be high, even Elliott was surprised by the community response.
“We sold out in like a week and had a wait list going,” he said.
Community garden plot managers include families with three generations, friends and neighbors sharing responsibilities, apartment-dwellers or those without adequate yards for gardening.
“Like so many things, we built the infrastructure here but it takes the community to kind of bring it to life,” Elliott said. “It takes people to kind of grow it and bring that sense of community to it. We tilled it up, laid some rocks down and laid out the plots, but the people have really developed it.”
Following a successful inaugural summer at Fishers’ first community garden, city officials are looking to expand its footprint at Cyntheanne Park and scout potential garden locations for 2017.
“We’ll definitely look to expand here farther to the east and maybe to the north in this space,” Fishers Parks and Recreation Director Tony Elliott said. “We might be able to add 50 more plots out here. We’ll see what the demand is.”
Although the space is there at Cyntheanne Park to more than double the amount of community garden plots, Elliott hopes the city could also spread its offerings evenly across Fishers.
“We’ve got a number of gardeners from the west side of Fishers who drive maybe 20 minutes out this way, so we definitely see that there’s kind of a gap over there and maybe an opportunity for us to build gardens on the west side of the community,” he said. “That will be a focus for us in 2017, to look if we can identify a spot over on the west side of Fishers.”
Both longtime and new gardeners have come to enjoy the sense of community the Cyntheanne Park offering has provided — all while also giving residents a place to plant healthy fruits and vegetables they may not have tried otherwise.
“I have a plot with my friend, (Donna Macy). We each weren’t sure if we wanted to do one or not, so we thought we’d just do one together. It’s really been a good experience. Neither one of our yards gets full sun, so we can’t have gardens at our own places.”
In their garden: Peas, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, bell peppers
“I’m new to gardening. I’ve tried a little at home and it just didn’t work out well. I’ve got some stuff in pots, but this is a nice open space with lots of direct sun, so I thought I’d try some other things. … My parents are big gardeners, so I got good advice from them on seeds and what I needed to start. “
“We planted ours with our neighbors. We’ve planted veggies and we hope they grow. We’re new to gardening, so we thought this would be a good way to get into it. I’m learning a lot.”
In their garden: Lettuce, tomatoes, asparagus, broccoli
“We don’t get good sun in our yard. My grandmother had taught me how to garden and I had a garden at a friends’ business, but she sold the business, and just right when she sold her business and I was sad about not being able to have a garden, this became available.”
In her garden: Carrots, lettuce, hot chili peppers, white onions, red onions, yellow onions, spinach, green beans, jalapeno peppers, kale, tomatoes, basil