A group of residents has proposed transforming the former Millwood Swim Club property into a community garden with the help of an organization that focuses on similar efforts throughout Westchester.
Several neighbors of the defunct club at the 1.3-acre property at 18 Sand St. presented their plans to the New Castle Town Board last week in hopes of installing 48 raised beds that would be used to grow seasonal crops, including peppers, lettuce, kale and a variety of squash.
Under the proposal, families would rent two beds each for a seasonal fee of $50, with a portion of the garden dedicated to donating food to charity.
“We’re very excited about it if we can get the property deed,” said Jackie Meyers-Smith, a neighbor of the site.
The residents would work with InterGenerate, an all-volunteer nonprofit outfit that over the past four years has helped other organizations and communities launch similar gardens. Locally, InterGenerate helped start community gardens at Marsh Sanctuary in Mount Kisco and near the Chappaqua Volunteer Ambulance Corps headquarters. It also established a teaching garden at John Jay Homestead in Katonah.
After a few years, InterGenerate would phase itself out of the operations once the garden is self-sufficient, the residents’ proposal stated. A garden committee, comprised of families interested in the garden’s operation, would help the organization get the project going.
The former swim club operated at the site for decades but closed in 2009, Meyers-Smith said. Since then, the property has been allowed to become overgrown with old and deteriorating playground equipment still on the grounds. There have been various ideas floated for the site since the club’s closure, including most recently the landowner hoping to donate the property to the town for the development of a pocket park. However, nothing became of the plans.
Resident and former councilman Michael Wolfensohn, a supporter of the concept, said the residents’ group is hoping to have the town clear the land and have the garden operational by spring.
Town officials who listened to the proposal last Tuesday praised the idea and hoped that the necessary work could be done to the site to bring the plan to fruition.
“I think it’s a wonderful idea and more people should know about it,” said Supervisor Susan Carpenter.
In order for the plan to become reality, the residents would need the town to grade and clear the land of the weeds, remove old play equipment, make sure there is proper drainage and repair the fencing. The area containing the beds would need to be mulched.
Resident Quint Smith said if the plan can be executed it would represent an important turnaround for the neighborhood to turn an abandoned lot into a useful purpose, and it would produce highly sought-after food for the area’s needy. A similar garden at the Fox Senior Center in Mount Kisco produced about 350 pounds of food for donation last year, InterGenerate reported.
Part of the program has been proposed so each family contributes toward the “giving garden,” said Quint Smith, one of the residents who is helping to organize the effort.
“Every person that purchases a garden space when they sign on, signs on with the idea that they will give a portion of their time to work within the giving garden so that the garden is a total cooperative group and what that garden itself produces is what’s given to the charity of our choice,” Smith said.
Organizers assured officials that they would comply with all wetlands regulations. There is water that flows through a damn on the site.
If the garden were to open, membership would only be open to New Castle residents.
Martin has more than 30 years experience covering local news in Westchester and Putnam counties, including a frequent focus on zoning and planning issues. He has been editor-in-chief of The Examiner since its inception in 2007. Read more from Martin’s editor-author bio here. Read Martin’s archived work here: https://www.theexaminernews.com/author/martin-wilbur2007/