N.S. council green lights green thumb effort for Halliwell property

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NORTH SMITHFIELD – Members of the North Smithfield Town Council granted unanimous approval on Monday to an initiative to set up a community garden on the property that once held Halliwell Elementary School.

The idea was first brought before the Halliwell Review Committee by Parks & Recreation Committee member Ann Lilley at their meeting last Thursday. Lilley said she’s been working with Recreation Director Kate Pasquariello to plan the garden, which would be run by volunteers.

“We thought it would be a good start for community building, a good start for finding some use at Halliwell and getting some kind of presence down there, and just a good thing for our town,” Lilley said.

The roughly 30 X 50 foot garden would have wire fencing, and Lilley said it would be placed between the cafe-torium and administration buildings at the former school where there’s access to water – temporarily for the time being. It would be created with beds of cardboard on top of sod, layered with compost, and have two gates, with access in front, and one for compost delivery in back.

“In a future date if we decide we want to move it or put it some other place it should be pretty easy to disassemble,” she told the committee. “I’m fairly confident we will get a lot of volunteers.”

In addition to producing vegetables to be split between those volunteers for the first two weeks of its months in use, the garden would also provide fresh food for the North Smithfield Food Pantry for the last two weeks.

“Our goal is to produce as many pounds of food as possible,” Lilley said.

The food pantry, she noted, currently serves 60 town families.

“I was unaware that the need was that great in our community,” Lilley said. “We’re going to have to crank out some serious produce.”

Lilley said the cost to build the garden is expected to fall between $800 and $900, and that Public Works Director Raymond Pendergast has said the cost could be covered out of his budget. Water would be paid for by the town, and Lilley and and Cheryl Marandola would lead a subcommittee to guide the effort.

“This is kind of an experiment to see how the community reacts,” Lilley said

At the Halliwell meeting, board members requested further details on the plan, and asked that Lilley come back at a future meeting with more detailed plans.

But since planting season is fast approaching, they also moved the issue forward for Town Council approval “pending positive recommendation from the Halliwell Review Committee.”

On Monday, May 3, committee member Jeffrey Porter spoke on behalf of the effort.

“We understand that there is some urgency with the growing season, so we’re just going to be doing things a little out of order,” Porter explained of the decision to place the issue before councilors with the committee’s decision still pending. 

Porter apologized to councilors on Monday for the early exception to protocol.

“We fully intend to provide recommendations anytime prior to anyone coming before the Town Council in the future,” he said.

“I think it’s a wonderful idea,” said Councilor Claire O’Hara. “I’m in full support of it.”

The Halliwell group is scheduled to take up discussing of the garden again on Thursday, May 6 at a meeting starting at 6:30 p.m. The agenda and link to attend can be found here.  

Update: The Halliwell Review Committee has also approved the project. Information on how to participate in the garden is available here.

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