A plot of land given to Denver Urban Gardens for $1 to house a community garden will be sold to duplex developers for $1.2 million

Alan Olds is more accustomed to nurturing things than fighting them. As a former garden leader and member at El Oasis Community Garden for the last five years, he has helped dozens of Lower Highland residents find and cultivate plots at the roughly 22,000-square-foot green space at 1847 W. 35th Ave.

That changed when he got a surprise call from Violeta Garcia, then-executive director of Denver Urban Gardens, earlier this month.

“She informed us that most of the garden was being sold, and she expressed her regret that it was necessary,” said Olds, who resigned as a garden leader last week after meeting with Garcia in person. “She also had some explanation of DUG’s financial situation — and why the board of directors felt that selling it was essential for their survival.”

Many El Oasis gardeners were shocked by the announcement, which amounted to 30 days’ notice to vacate El Oasis in advance of a sale that won’t be finalized until December. Despite past financial challenges, the nonprofit had always been able — every other year — to pay down the line of credit it used to operate its gardens.

Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post

Jacob Peitzer sits on a swing under a large tree with his six month old son Theodore on his plot in the El Oasis Community Garden in Denver on Sept. 21, 2020.

But starting in 2018, weak fundraising totals, expiring national grants (including $100,000 for DUG’s Healthy Seedlings program) and an ever-expanding number of gardens rendered them unable to do that, said Ramonna Robinson, chairwoman of DUG’s board. Once the pandemic arrived, she said, they had no other choice but to raise cash through a property sale.

“Nobody wants to see even part of that garden go away,” she said of El Oasis. “But it became the best option for us.”

Out of the 180 gardens that DUG manages in the metro area — including 120 community gardens and 70 school gardens — only three are owned by the nonprofit, while the rest are owned by schools, churches, private groups and others. Two of them aren’t profitable: DUG’s Shoshone garden is too small to develop, while its Pecos garden is too complicated from a zoning standpoint, Robinson said. That left El Oasis, the sale of which would give DUG cash to pay down its $500,000-plus in debt, as well as provide reserves for an uncertain future.

The problem is that El Oasis, one of the biggest community gardens in Denver, hosts about 40 shared garden plots and has often acted as the flagship for a nonprofit that boasts 17,500 volunteer gardeners. The fact that DUG is under contract with developer Caliber Construction to sell two-thirds of El Oasis for $1.2 million is a desertion of the nonprofit’s mission to secure and support community green spaces, gardeners said.

Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post

Gardeners placed caution tape around the main pergola covered with grapevines on Sept. 21, 2020, at the center of the El

Read more

Denver homeowner upset about new cell tower in garden

DENVER (KDVR) — Faster and improved cell service comes with a price. More towers are going up around the Denver metro area, and where they end up can affect homeowners.

Mary Ann Martin tells the FOX31 Problem Solvers a large cell tower is the last thing she wanted to see growing out of her beautiful street-side garden.

“Oh, I’m super angry about it,” she said.

The Problem Solvers contacted the Denver Department of Transportation and Infrastructure. They explained that Verizon is attaching cell equipment onto an existing street light.

It was moved to ensure the public’s right-of-way is not blocked.

A city spokesperson says while there isn’t a notification requirement, residents were notified as soon as possible with door notices.

The Problem Solvers contacted Verizon Wireless headquarters as well.

A spokesperson issued a statement saying:

“Verizon’s network provides the broadest coverage, best speeds, and unsurpassed reliability. We consistently invest in our network so that we can offer our customers the quality experience and the reliability they expect and deserve – today and in the future. The (site) is a collocation site that includes the replacement of an existing light-pole with a new light pole/small cell combination pole in the public right-of-way. Verizon has adhered to all applicable requirements, including local permit requirements. In addition, we provided the specific information about this site on Denver’s Small Cell Map to support greater transparency about deployment efforts throughout the city”.

Martin tells FOX31 she understands the process but wanted earlier notice so she could have a voice in where the tower was located. She says she would have requested for the pole to have been placed at the other end of her garden instead.

“I’ve been told it is their right-of-way, they can do whatever they want. If they would have given me a week, I could have sold the house,” she said.

The Problem Solvers asked real estate expert Grant Muller of Spaces Real Estate about how cell towers affect property values.    

“Certain buyers are going to be very concerned about being near high tension power lines, fracking or cellphone towers, other buyers aren’t going to care at all,” he said.

When asked about any positives, Muller points out that homeowners should ask about their rights to certain benefits.

“Sometimes the property owner or the neighborhood gains some revenue from the cellphone tower,” he said.

Martin says heading to court over the tower isn’t an option she’ll take.

“I will live with it,” she said.

Homeowners have rights when a tower is not obstructing the public right-of-way.

For more information on policies, visit the City and County of Denver’s website.

Source Article

Read more

Denver Urban Gardens Doubles Size of Aurora Community Garden

“I tell everybody about the garden,” says Donna Moody, co-leader of Sanctuary Community Garden. “I told somebody today and somebody yesterday, and people just smile and just love to hear about it.”

The five-year-old Denver Urban Gardens project in north Aurora provides a space for families and individuals to grow food for themselves and their community. The spot currently comprises fifty garden plots, but it’s set to double in size on Saturday, September 19, thanks to financial support from Tito’s Handmade Vodka and the Colorado Garden Foundation.

The gardens allow families to supplement their groceries with freshly grown produce.

The gardens allow families to supplement their groceries with freshly grown produce.

Courtesy of Denver Urban Gardens

Moody became a leader at Sanctuary Community Garden three years ago, but she grew up on a farm between Eaton and Greeley and has always loved digging in the dirt. “That’s how I got into gardening, because it’s kind of my second nature — my first nature, actually,” she explains. And her farming background is something she has in common with many DUG members.

Sanctuary’s members are predominantly Nepali and Burmese immigrants and refugees. Moody says that many families are from the countryside and like to grow what they like to eat: vegetables such as water lettuce, ugli fruit, chin baung and kin poon (two herbs used in Burmese cooking) — produce that’s expensive or hard to find in Denver.

The garden is also located in a part of Aurora that’s considered a food desert, though there were once supermarkets like King Soopers and Safeway in the neighborhood. But those are now closed, so the garden helps families fill a need for fresh, healthy food.

Sanctuary Community Gardens will build fifty new garden beds this weekend.

Sanctuary Community Gardens will build fifty new garden beds this weekend.

Courtesy of Denver Urban Gardens

Nessa Mogharreban, manager of construction volunteers for Denver Urban Gardens, says that food access is key to the organization’s mission to make safe, sustainable gardens. “We work really closely [with community members] to make sure the space is going to be sustainable for years,” she notes, by teaching and emphasizing the importance of planting organic, conserving water and using compost.

That long-term relationship between DUG and the Aurora garden’s members is what drew Tito’s to contribute to Sanctuary Community Garden’s expansion project. Lisa Huddleson, director of strategic philanthropy for the Texas-based distillery, says that through the company’s Block to Block program, Tito’s often “works closely with nonprofits and charity organizations that exhibit active engagement in their neighborhoods…by growing or expanding community gardens and farms.”

Ultimately, it’s all driven by neighborhood gardeners, and by volunteers such as Moody. “It is my passion,” Moody says. “I’m really supposed to be working for a living, but sometimes I just get into this volunteer stuff and forget to go to work.”

But she knows it’s also an equal exchange. She’s found Sanctuary to be a place that’s meant for sharing knowledge, food and culture. “We’re all there for the same purpose,” she says. “Most gardeners truly do love each other, because they have that same good purpose in mind.”

Read more