Community Garden With Conditions
Plots are tilled, but the borough isn't green lighting the Red Bank Community Garden yet.
Red Bank’s community gardeners are ready to go. They settled on a plot of land, finally, after butting heads with borough council for more than a year over where to locate the garden. Since then, they’ve even tilled the land and plotted individual gardens in hopes of planting as soon as they can.
Not so fast.
Borough officials met with community garden organizer Cindy Burnham to explain what they need from the gardeners before any seeds are sewn. What they need is for the gardeners to make a choice. According to Burnham, Borough Administrator Stanley Sickles has given the Red Bank Community Garden committee two options: find a willing 501-3c or register your own to run the garden or turn if over to the borough’s Parks and Recreation Department.
Burnham said she wants a third option.
The idea behind the two options, apparently, is to ensure that there’s a layer of official accountability behind the garden. Burnham thinks it’s just Red Bank’s way of trying to wrestle the community garden away from the volunteers who have made the whole endeavor possible.
“I don’t trust them. I’ve seen the crap they’ve pulled,” Burnham said at an Environmental Commission meeting Tuesday night. “They’ve tried to have me arrested when I was only helping a woman down at Maple Cove; I’ve seen them give away 51 Monmouth for a dollar.
“I just don’t trust this town.”
Burnham’s comments are in response to an incident earlier this year in which she was ticketed for removing protective mesh from the base of Maple Cove that was installed by the borough as well as Red Bank’s sale of its historic hall to St. James Catholic Church, which she and others sued to prevent.
The suit was later dismissed by a Monmouth County Superior Court Judge.
The borough’s demands on the garden also don’t jive with the demands of other municipalities on their respective community gardens, she argued. In Freehold, Shrewsbury, and Tinton Falls, Burnham said, the gardens are not registered 501-3cs and do not share an affiliation with any 501-3cs. She also noted that in Tinton Falls the garden is a subcommittee of the local environmental commission and maintains its own bank account.
Should Red Bank’s community gardeners agree to hand the garden over to Parks and Recreation, Burnham said she’d be concerned about how garden fees would be spent as well as the potential for problems when soliciting the borough for supplies like garden hoses or tools.
“I would love us to be a stand along committee with our own money,” she said, continuing that she thought the borough’s motivations amounted to “more paperwork, and more of a chance to mess things up.”
Burnham petitioned the environmental commission for help in creating a third scenario in which the garden committee would be a subcommittee of the group, though the EC’s members generally agreed that handing the garden over to Parks and Recreation, with some conditions, perhaps, to protect the vision, would be the best route to take.
It was unlikely that planting would begin this year anyway, but with summer nearing an end, it’s unclear which route the community gardeners and Burnham will ultimately choose.