SJCF Community Garden Taking Root


Paths are cleared and volunteers are needed to take SJCF’s garden, above, to the next phase.

St. John Community Foundation officials recently celebrated the completion of phase one of work on the group’s community garden, located on 2.5 acres on Gifft Hill Road.

With phase one wrapped up, the community garden land has now been cleared, pathways have been created and 40 native trees have been planted, explained SJCF executive director Celia Kalousek.

But there is still plenty of work to do before the area is transformed into the garden park which Kalousek envisions, complete with butterfly and herb gardens. SJCF is hosting a phase two kick off work day on Sunday, August 5, from 1 to 5 p.m. on the site, according to Kalousek.

“Everyone is invited to grab their favorite garden tool or just a pair of gloves and come stake your claim at the community garden park on Gifft Hill by adopting a designated area that you would like to help maintain with other community members,” she said. “We plan to have a butterfly garden, an herb garden, a bush tea garden, a provisions garden similar to those planted by the property’s homesteaders back in the 1700s, and more.”

SJCF officials are also looking for experienced farmers to help in the effort and are hoping a local beekeeper will bring some hives to the property, Kalousek added.

“We are also looking for creative people to help us paint the temporary work container and brainstorm a name for this special outdoor community space,” she said.

While there is plenty of work ahead, SJCF officials will also be celebrating how much progress has been made at the island community garden park, Kalousek explained.

“With funding from V.I. Department of Agriculture’s Urban and Community Forestry Program and a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service, volunteers from SJCF, St. John Historical Society, Audubon Society, Gifft Hill School’s EARTH program and numerous community gardeners worked tirelessly to get us this far,” said the SJCF executive director. “We now have an application in for an orchard containing Mamee Apple, Sour Sop, Guava and Sugar Apple trees, and a pending Community Development Block Grant for a community meeting pavilion space.”

Volunteers were also careful to retain the historically and culturally rich area in its beautiful state, Kalousek added.

“The paths were swept clear and weeded weekly by hand, so the numerous pieces of pottery and other historically significant findings were not displaced,” she said. “We are working around the ruins and are counting on the experienced local experts from the Historical Society to take the lead on any work near the ruins to make sure their integrity is not compromised.”

Lee and John Horner made sure that the 40 native trees — which were planted under the supervision of experts Eleanor and Alex Gibney — were watered all through the severe dry spell the island experienced, according to Kalousek.

Residents are already investing personally in the up-and-coming garden park, she added.

“Lee and John have adopted a space we call the Horner Corner,” said Kalousek. “Paul Devine helped design a water catchment system we now call the Devine Water Source. We also have a donor who expressed an interest in a commemorative bench along the path looking out over one of the many beautiful vistas, in honor of his daughter.”

SJCF officials plan to host an organized community work day the first Sunday of each month. To pitch in on one of the numerous garden park projects, call Kalousek at 693-9410 and be sure to attend the August 5 kick off work day from 1 to 5 p.m. and stay for refreshments.