This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Tennis balls haven't bounced on this "eyesore" for a decade, so why shouldn't the dilapidated tennis courts near Fairmont Park be rehabbed for another public use?
A tandem of motivated growers are taking a swing at just that, plotting to erect a Sugar House Community Garden atop the cracked, unused courts across the street from the planned streetcar line at 2225 S. 900 East.
The brainchild of area residents Heidi Spence and Aimee Horman, the public garden is envisioned as a means to beautify a long-neglected corner of Sugar House with a privately funded, tax-free enterprise. The organizers intend to form a board of directors and solicit donations to get their 4-foot-by-12-foot produce beds off the ground.
Instead of removing the concrete, the plan calls for placing 12- to 18-inch raised beds on top of the courts, which would be easier to move or relocate if City Hall wants its space back once the streetcar rolls.
"Many homeowners in the Sugar House area have sacrificed lot space in order to live here. Even among those who have the room to garden, there are so many mature trees in the area that your lot may be too shaded," Spence posted on the garden blog site. "Community gardens inspire kinship and a sense of pride in the community. We want to get as many children, teens and families involved as we can."
To that end, Spence, a Westminster College student, and Horman, a community advocate, have approached the adjacent Sugar House Boys and Girls Club about partnering on the garden as an outdoor classroom for educational programs focused on urban agriculture. Besides resident use, the club would use the oasis of green to teach kids and teens about food, health and sustainability.
A ditch that runs alongside the courts could be used for a drip irrigation system. And right now, despite the murder of a woman in neighboring Fairmont Park in December, the idea is to leave the garden unlocked as an inviting space designed to build "community."
For years, city officials have waffled about whether to rebuild the damaged courts. Recent budget challenges prevented the move, which, in turn, led City Hall to embrace the community-garden vision.
But given bureaucratic restrictions that Mayor Ralph Becker is now working to loosen, the approval process has not been easy.
"There have been a lot of issues, and it has been a little bit of a cumbersome project," said Emy Maloutas, the city's open space and public lands manager. "We're working hard because we understand the growing season is upon us."
Maloutas has sent the gardening group a one-year draft agreement with a renewal option but before any planting could happen, formal steps would have to be taken.
Zoning would have to change. That is likely to happen later this month under the mayor's first crop of sustainability code rewrites. City attorneys also would have to amend the open-space land inventory rules to permit a lease. And the garden would need approval from the Planning Commission and City Council.
All of that is expected in coming weeks.
The organizing duo used a community garden (built atop an old tennis court) in West Sussex, England, as the model. With help from a landscape architect, the goal calls for 40 beds at an estimated cost of $6,900.
P Interested gardeners, volunteers, donors and curious Sugar House residents are invited to meet with organizers of the Sugar House Community Garden
When • 3:30 p.m. Saturday
Where • The Fairmont Park tennis courts, which organizers hope to transform into a garden, are at 2225 S. 900 East.
More information • sugarhouse community garden.blog.com.