GROWING SEASON: Legion Field Garden improvements planned

By Evan Goodenow -

Peter Crowley, planning commission vice chairman

Peter Crowley, planning commission vice chairman

Tony Mealy

Designed to grow more food for the needy and attract volunteers, improvements are coming to Legion Field’s community garden.

“We’ve got this great space,” Zion Community Development Corporation executive director Alan Mitchell told Oberlin planning commission members May 18. “We’ve got this great opportunity.”

The commission approved the changes with vice chairman Peter Crowley and members Eric Gaines and Ellen Mavrich voting yes. Commission chairman Matt Adelman and member Bryan Stubbs were absent.

The improvements for the field and garden at 425 South Professor St., behind the Oberlin fire station, are:

• Creation of mulch paths to the garden.

• Repaired fencing designed to keep out deer.

• A 6-by-10-foot archway, known as a pergola, over the garden to provide shade.

• A vegetable washing station.

• A sign by the entrance to the garden off West Hamilton Street to better promote it and the field.

• A 30-by-90-foot “high tunnel” similar to a greenhouse to keep the garden cool in hot weather.

Up to $10,000 will be spent on the improvements, Mitchell said after the meeting. They are being covered by a grant from the Lorain County General Health District.

The updates were deemed temporary because the city owns the field — sold to it by the American Legion about 25 years ago — rather than Zion.

The nonprofit group has been running the garden for the city since 2011 in a series of one- and two-year contracts. The latest, a two-year pact, expires March 17, Mitchell said.

About 1,700 pounds of vegetables were donated from the 1.9 acre-garden to Oberlin Community Services food pantry last year and Mitchell said he’s hopeful more food can be grown there to “end hunger in our community.”

Oberlin College and Lorain County JVS students volunteer at the garden and Mitchell said better promotion will attract more volunteers.

“It’s an opportunity for the community to come together,” he said. “But for right now, we have prove that we’ve got the capacity to do it.”

Mitchell said garden growth won’t negatively impact neighbors.

But Tony Mealy, a South Professor Street resident who lives about a block north of the garden, was unhappy about expanding it. Mealy, a frequent commission critic, said the garden attracts deer to his backyard and they’re a nuisance.

He said a better use for Legion is as an athletic field. “You’ve basically ruined it and everything you’ve mentioned today is not of a temporary nature,” Mealy told Mitchell and David Sonner, Zion board of directors president.

Mealy also said Crowley should have recused himself from voting because he volunteers at the garden. Crowley said after the meeting that he didn’t recuse himself because there is no conflict of interest in him voting. He said the only personal gain he gets from the garden is “being outside.”

Evan Goodenow can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @GoodenowNews on Twitter.

Peter Crowley, planning commission vice chairman Crowley, planning commission vice chairman

Tony Mealy Mealy

By Evan Goodenow