WESTERLY — The Westerly Land Trust's goal of sprucing up Main Street is expected to take a few steps forward in the coming weeks and months as the organization moves its community garden to a new location and plants trees along a section of the roadway.
The private nonprofit organization is preparing to move its community garden from 177 Main St., where it's been since 2008, to 145 Main St. The decision to move the garden came about when the land trust was approached by the new owners of the former Amanda's Pantry's Restaurant location about whether they could use part of the land trust's property for parking. In time the land trust decided to move.
"It made sense for the overall development and beautification of Main Street, which is our end goal — to work with the town and our neighbors for the beautification of Main Street," said Jennifer Brinton, chairwoman of the land trust's urban initiatives committee.
The new owners of the former Amanda's Pantry's Restaurant location, 169 Main Street LLC, plan to raze the existing building and construct a new restaurant. The former community garden location will be used for a parking lot that will be landscaped with open green space and made with permeable material to alleviate stormwater runoff problems that occur with large sections of asphalt.
The new community garden will consist of 14 raised beds, up from the current 12, and allow for two beds that will be accessible to people with disabilities. A space for workshops and the garden's toolshed will be included. "We envision the entire space as an inviting area that people feel comfortable visiting and using openly," the land trust wrote in a narrative submitted to the municipal Planning Department.
The land trust razed an old service station building that occupied 145 Main St. last year.
The garden allows residents without home gardens or yards to grow their own produce. Students have also used the garden as part of their curriculum and for community service by donating produce to the Jonnycake Center of Westerly.
The land trust will use donations and a $10,000 grant from the Rhode Island Foundation to create the new community garden space. As part of the grant, the land trust will plant flowers that will attract a range of pollinating insects.
The land trust is also working with town officials, the municipal tree warden, and other property owners to plant trees along Main Street, from the area of the current garden north to the Main Street Plaza, where Dick's World of Wines and Midway Pizza House are located. Types of trees under consideration are Amur and maples, serviceberry, Eastern redbud and American hornbeam.
Briton said there have also been discussions aimed at further efforts to improve the look of Main Street and to improve access to the Pawcatuck River. The land trust is hoping that the garden project and tree planting might spur similar activity by other property owners on Main Street, she said.
The Planning Board voted unanimously Tuesday to approve the land trust's master and preliminary plans. The land trust hoped to obtain a zoning certificate from the town on Friday. Work to build the new community garden could begin as soon as this week. The land trust's goal is to have the garden ready for the upcoming growing season, Brinton said.