Ketchikan is set to go green for the summer as the Ketchikan Wellness Coalition garden network continues to bloom.
The garden network includes three gardens, located at Clover Pass Church, Tongass Federal Credit Union's campus and Rendezvous Senior Day Services (although this garden is not public), according to KWC Executive Director Romanda Simpson.
Plots and beds in the Clover Pass and TFCU gardens will be open for rent by any individual who fills out an application and pays a small fee that will be put toward garden maintenance.
"Our goal is to offer workshops for the community to come and learn about how to grow and what grows in Ketchikan, because not everything does very well," Simpson said during a Thursday interview with the Daily News.
It's not the first time that a Ketchikan entity has attempted to kickstart a gardening network, according to Simpson.
"Interestingly, I know that there's been many people in the past who have been super passionate about growing happening in Ketchikan, so it's nothing new," Simpson said.
And recently, Simpson recalled that she was approached by a group of community volunteers who wanted to rekindle the effort, in order to make it simple for Ketchikan residents to take up gardening as a way to improve mental health and wellbeing.
"And I had just seen from some of our community health needs assessment(s) and as well as hearing about food insecurities caused by the COVID pandemic with regard to not knowing about deliveries, for example," Simpson said. "There was a lot of interest in building our food security in Ketchikan."
And since food security and healthy living already were outlined as priorities for KWC's Building a Healthy Community Task Force, KWC jumped into the project.
Simpson said that the timing of the volunteers' idea was serendipitous.
"Tongass Federal Credit Union actually had literally reached out to us about two days before the volunteers came to us, and said 'Hey, we have this plot of land that we're not doing anything with and we'd really love to it (be) like a community garden."
The project continued to grow from there.
"We were initially starting with just the one (garden) and then Clover Pass happened to reach out to volunteers and said 'We were thinking the same thing, can we get support?'" Simpson recalled.
The volunteers and KWC set to work on the gardens.
The volunteers — who are leading the initiative, Simpson said — are creating the garden beds by hand, while "the Wellness Coalition's role was to secure some funding."
KWC received a grant from the Ketchikan Community Foundation for the TFCU garden expenses, which included beds and a shed.
"This location is perfect for container gardening and showcasing what can be grown in a half sunny, half shady spot – which we all know is typical of most spaces in Ketchikan," a KWC press release stated.
A PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center grant covered the cost of the Clover Pass garden location, as well as repairs to the Rendezvous garden.
Plots in the garden are available for rent, with a small service fee that is dedicated to maintenance costs for the garden beds.
Once an application is filled out, the plot is ready to go.
"It's really good soil, so you don't have to worry about adding anything to it," Simpson said. "We've added soil amendments."
"And we've even got a seed vault for free seeds, located in the building of The Commons (Pilothouse Coffee)," Simpson added. "And you can go get your seeds from there so you've got everything you need to start. (We're) trying to make it easy for people."
KWC hopes to see the gardens expand in the future.
"Long term goals include working with the school district to get gardens on school sites and working with other local businesses that might have a spare piece of land that's got great sun and (is) not going to use it for a while," according to Simpson.
The KWC press release also noted that all skill levels can benefit from upcoming workshops that will be scheduled as the network continues to grow.
"If you are an avid gardener and want to share your knowledge, get involved!" the statement read. "If you are a new gardener who needs to learn everything, there will be opportunities to learn how to compost, grow fruits and vegetables, understand soil, and more."
So far, the project has garnered a lot of attention.
Simpson said that when she shares information about the garden network with others, the response is, "this is what we needed."
The garden network also has a quickly growing social media presence.
"In a matter of weeks, we started a Facebook group called Ketchikan Community Gardens," Simpson explained, noting that it reached a membership of 300 during the first weeks. "It's growing — every day, we get at least another 20, 25 members."