Wedged between the Big H Shopping Center and public housing in Huntington Station is an unexpected garden, one that allows its residents to grow organic produce in their own plots of land. Gateway Park Community Garden, once a disregarded piece of land, has been transformed into a family-friendly area that teaches kids to connect with the earth and learn healthy eating habits.
Located on a sunny patch of land off Lowndes Avenue along New York Avenue, long-time residents speak of days past when this location was a wooded area filled with rumored unsavory characters performing drug deals and other illicit activities. The town sought to make a change and worked with the Long Island Community Agriculture Network (LICAN, a project of Starflower Experiences founded by Huntington residents Larry Foglia and Frances Cerra Whittelsey), and more than 15 local organizations to create the community gardens back in 2010.
The residents gardening in Gateway Park come in all ages and races with a range of socioeconomic backgrounds. Here in Gateway Park, backgrounds don’t matter as much as everyone is just seen as a gardener. It’s a friendly group who often share the fruits of their labor and will get together for fundraising events and other social outings.
In the last two years, the garden has offered 87 raised wood garden beds with plans for more, a separate section of 24 plots just for kids, and 6 raised plots for those in wheelchairs or who have trouble bending.
Gateway Park offers wheelbarrows, gardening tools, and water hoses for gardeners to share. Gardeners getting started can utilize the huge piles of soil, compost, and mulch located by the community shed. Gardeners are expected to maintain their gardens; ongoing neglect warrants losing the assigned plot. There is no fee, but LICAN encourages donations of $25. Participants are asked to volunteer in one of these areas: fundraising, social events, educational programs, construction (of beds, etc.) or garden beautification and maintenance.
All of these efforts contribute to the revitalization of Huntington Station and the promotion of local sustainable food and agriculture – both which offer great lessons for families and their children.
By Maria Adcock