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Community Garden OK'd on North Salem School Campus

NORTH SALEM, N.Y. – A proposed organic community garden at the North Salem Middle/High School campus proved to be a controversial issue at a recent Board of Education meeting.

Construction of a 33-plot garden in a courtyard on the school's northern face, funded entirely by a private gift to the school district and received through the North Salem Open Land Foundation , would provide individual plots for the use of community members, including students, who would have access at any time.

Earlier, board members received copies of a written agreement between the school district and the foundation. At the meeting, Superintendent Ken Freeston exhibited a plan of the project and said, “It’ll enrich the land and the community. It’ll engage us with people who don’t ordinarily come to the school, and it’ll bring people together on our grounds.”

Board of Education President Katherine Daniels said, “I can’t express how grateful we are to the foundation and to the donor for this very generous gift.”

However, board member Andrew Brown, a sergeant with the North Salem Police Department, said, “I find it troubling. To begin with, I don’t understand why a town with zoning of not less than one acre needs a community garden.

“Who’ll oversee this garden? Who makes up this community that’ll be using the garden? Can anyone claim a plot? Are we going to do background checks? Does this mean we’re going to leave the school gates open 24/7?”

Freeston said he understood the garden was to be “an informal arrangement, no security guards, no scans. After all, we don’t have security enforcement for people who use the track.”

Daniels added, “Anyone who comes onto our campus is subject to our rules of conduct.”

Brown was also concerned about parking space for gardeners. “We don’t have enough parking as it is,” he said. Freeston replied, “There will be a designated parking area. No one parks back there now, anyway.”

Brown said, “If there is parking space back there, why don’t we use it, instead of having people parking illegally up front in handicap zones and faculty spaces?”

Reading aloud from the document, Brown said he was confused by the wording. “What does it mean about the land ‘reverting?’ Who’s going to own this garden? I don’t think it’s clear.”

Daniels replied, “The arrangement can be terminated at our discretion.”

Brown said, “I’m not necessarily against the garden, but I think this document should be clearer and that the garden should be administered with safety issues in mind.”

Freeston and Daniels agreed that the agreement with the foundation should be rewritten more clearly.

A vote was taken, four in favor of proceeding with the garden, one against. Construction was scheduled to begin almost immediately.

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