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No community garden for Calle Joaquin spot?

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Too many people in SLO want a community gardening plot and city officials are looking for places to locate them. Even with 13 unused acres, the early indication is that would-be gardeners will simply have to make do with the existing plots.

There are about 120 people waiting for community gardening plots, nearly twice the number of available spaces. City parks officials ranked the available options of where more plots could be created and relayed the results to City Council members on Jan. 20.

The options were weighted primarily on the availability of water and by how close the areas are to where people live. Officials recommended simply expanding the Emerson Park garden, currently the largest of the three community gardens. If the idea moves forward, some of the park’s blacktop and equipment would be removed to make room for more gardening.

One possibility that seems to have hit a brick wall with city officials is to convert some of the Calle Joaquin open space: 13 acres of empty land at the southern edge of the city, about half of which is farmable. Just a couple of acres could meet all the community demand and the land is currently leased at just $1 per year as a hay farm.

Some have argued it would be ideal for community gardening. But there’s no drinkable water and the access roads are not bike and pedestrian friendly, parks officials said. To convert the land into a community garden, the city would have to tear up existing roads to lay new water lines.

“What these things all mean is there’s an unknown but probably a fairly large capital cost,” Natural Resources Manager Neil Havlik said.

Those obstacles seemed enough to scare off parks officials and council members. Although there will be no formal decision until the city’s budget process, council members seemed happiest to go with the Emerson Park expansion. City officials and a few public speakers all seemed to want to do something with the Calle Joaquin property, but the early ideas were more geared toward using it as open space or for additional farming.

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