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Vestal School sees more green in its future

May 28, 2009
Students at Vestal K8 School
Vestal students and teacher Chad Honl burst onto a grass field, formerly asphalt, during an unveiling ceremony last year.
Less than a year after ripping out 15,000 square feet of asphalt and replacing it with a lush grass field, organizers at Vestal K-8 School are hoping to remove still more asphalt – this time, replacing it with a garden for use by students, families and community members.
The garden would be adjacent to Vestal, located on Northeast 82nd Avenue. About one-third of the 15,700-square-foot plot would be reserved for school use, while the rest would be divided into sections (about 20 square feet each) and made available to community members.

If all goes according to plan, organizers – who include school staff, students, parents and neighbors – will break ground on the garden in July and finish by October.

Contributions still needed

Organizers need to raise an additional $25,000 to make the proposal a reality. But Vestal teacher Chad Honl, who is working on the garden and was involved in the earlier green space project, is optimistic they will meet their goal.

“We tried to do this five years ago, but it didn’t happen. Now we have the momentum we need, coming off the success of our earlier project,” Honl says.

Honl says the garden serves several purposes: It connects parents and community members with the school, reduces harmful storm water runoff, teaches students about science and brings more local food into the cafeteria. (By next spring, organizers hope to begin serving food raised in the garden as part of school lunches.)

Interest is high

Several families already have expressed interest in using the garden. Also, Friends of Portland Community Gardens, a partner organization that supports community gardens citywide, has 1,200 people on a waiting list for garden plots. And Honl says 19 of 20 teachers at Vestal have expressed interest in using the garden as part of classroom activities.

Organizers have raised $65,000 in money and in-kind donations, with several grant applications still pending. They need about $90,000 total to complete the project.

Contributions come from a variety of sources: Friends of Portland Community Gardens has promised $25,000; Oregon Tradeswomen Inc. will build a shed valued at $5,000; Depave will remove the asphalt, valued at $17,000; the PTA has donated $1,000; and a Vision Into Action grant will provide $17,000 for garden infrastructure and an AmeriCorps member, who will help classrooms, parents and community members use the garden.

For more information about the Vestal community garden, contact Chad Honl at chonl@pps.net.






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