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Community garden discussion moves forward
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Creating a community garden in Olde Town Conyers is steps closer to becoming a reality after a local group of citizens has approached the city about managing the project.

Members of Enliven Project, an organization formed by local citizens seeking to restore a sense of community to Conyers, met with the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) about taking on the project Tuesday. The authority began discussing turning the empty half-acre lot on Elm Street into a garden about a year ago, and now the lot is temporarily being used for parking when productions companies are working in Olde Town. Located across the street from the city's lot behind the Whistle Post, the former Stephenson's Automotive site is owned by the city.

Modeled after community gardens in Suwanee and Decatur, the garden would offer plots to gardeners and farmers for a small fee. The plans also call for fencing, gravel walkways, a water meter and a small building, with initial costs estimated to be between $3,000 to $5,000 to prepare the site.

"People meet when they are out there planting vegetables, and then they go have lunch at the Whistle Post and walk around Olde Town, which is the whole point (of creating a community garden)," DDA chairman Marty Jones said during the authority's monthly meeting Tuesday. Jones and other DDA members said the city will support the Enliven Project organizing the garden and asked the group to market the idea to get a sense of how many residents would be interested in using a community garden.

Community gardens generally operate by charging a small annual fee, which is reduced for residents who reside in the city limits, and typically have raised plots ranging in size from 4'x8' to 4x12', according to DDA member Brandon Mitchell. Mitchell has researched the community garden idea over the last year and has said he feels the benefits of a community garden far outweigh the start-up costs. He also said the community gardens he visited in Decatur and Suwanee are so popular that there is usually a waiting list for plots.

The authority and organizers of the Enliven Project, which has seen approximately 50 members at its two quarterly meetings held so far, plan to move forward with the garden as soon as feedback is received from citizens. Though no decision was made Tuesday, a DDA grant may be used to jump start the project. Enliven Project will then form a committee of citizens who have a particular interest in developing the garden to organize and manage the project, according to Enliven Project co-founder Matt Robuck.

"Enliven Project is basically a platform," Robuck said Tuesday night. "We will form a separate committee to do the fundraising and find people in the community who have a great interest in one project."