Thursday, April 10, 2014

Grant Funding Could Expand Park and Garden Facilities at Easton Area Neighborhood Center

By Christina Georgiou

A bee pollinates a sunflower in an
Easton community garden.
Easton city council members unanimously resolved to apply for a $75,000 matching  grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Wednesday evening, which, if approved by the state agency, will pay for park improvements at the Easton Area Neighborhood Center and Urban Farm in the city's South Side neighborhood.

The city will provide the matching funds of up to $75,000, with $50,000 coming from the  city's Parks, Recreation, and Open Space fund and $25,000 from this years Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Parks line item in the city's general budget, Public Works Director David Hopkins indicated.

Preliminary plans for park improvements at the Philadelphia Road facility include installing new playground equipment, an outdoor classroom intended to be used for future gardening and nature education programs, pathways, and some fencing, he added.

"We believe that this is a great opportunity for such a project and that it would improve the viability and usefulness of the neighborhood center, as well as provide a platform for youth environmental education," Hopkins told city council members.

While the future education programs have not yet been developed and details still need to be worked out, Hopkins said they would likely involve various organizations and volunteers.

"We are working to develop potential partners, including the West Ward Neighborhood Partnership," he said.

The Urban Farm, along with several other community gardens in Easton and "LaFarm", Lafayette College's organic garden on Sullivan Trail in Forks Township, provided fresh produce last year for the Easton Veggie Van pilot program, which distributed more than 1,000 pounds of vegetables to residents in the city's West Ward. That program is expected to be continued and expanded upon in a joint effort by the  WWNP and the college's tech clinic this summer.

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