Dillon cuts the ribbon on Leslie’s Garden | SummitDaily.com

Dillon cuts the ribbon on Leslie’s Garden

The town of Dillon cut the ribbon on Leslie's Garden Thursday, officially opening the town's first community garden plots to 22 lucky people.

The garden is located on the corner of Lake Dillon Drive and Tenderfoot Street, and is meant to give residents a chance to grow their own fresh produce and flora. The space will also serve as a new hangout spot for guests to take in the park's sights and enjoy the weather.

"It's just a cool grassroots project, and it was something we really wanted to do for the community," said Matt Lope, events coordinator for Dillon. "We want it to be a space where even if you don't have a box you can go have lunch there, hang out or read a book. It's a chance to meet different people in the community and make friends."

The garden, built in association with the High Country Conservation Center, was made possible through a $4,000 Healthy Eating and Active Living grant from LiveWell Colorado, and a sizable personal donation from the Stair family. Both monetary and supplies donations were made by a number of other local businesses as well. The park was named after Leslie Stair, daughter of the Stair family, Lope said.

The town held a community meeting in February on the project, presenting residents with the idea and a full garden box to give them a sense of what the garden might look like after completion. With the community on board, the town moved forward with the garden and opened plots for purchase in early May. They sold out just weeks later.

"It was just first come, first served," said Lope. "We put them up on the website on about May 1 and within two or three weeks they were gone. We had people on the waiting list by the last week of May."

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Boxes, raised garden beds measuring 8 feet by 4 feet, cost $50 with an additional $50 deposit which will be returned after the owner completes 10 hours of community service. Volunteering to water, weed or complete general maintenance work for the whole community garden can count toward community hours. Participants can also volunteer to help HC3 at events to retain their deposit.

But the project's community service emphasis also extends to the produce itself. Any leftover produce from the garden will be weighed and hand delivered to charitable organizations within the community like the Family & Intercultural Resource Center and Women, Infants & Children.

"Being able to donate excess food is huge in this community, especially with the high cost of living here," said Barry Rubenstein, marketing and development director for HC3. "There are a lot of families that can't afford to buy groceries. It's a great way to give back to the community with local, fresh food."

While this garden is just getting started, the town is already looking to the future. Lope said that Leslie's Garden is only phase one of the project, with potentially two more stages coming afterward depending on the new garden's popularity and demand. Phase two, if necessary, would add an additional 15 to 20 boxes with a similar design. Phase three could be a bigger greenhouse project, said Lope.

"We have some plans put together for later phases," said Lope. "But as far as dates, those aren't in the plans. We want to see the response from people, and see if it's something people really want or need. So we'll make that call later down the road."