SALT LAKE CITY — After years of planning and negotiating, city leaders on Tuesday celebrated the opening of another community garden — and one smack in the middle of one of the state's fastest-growing neighborhoods.
Speaking over the bellowing of a passing train and the bustle of nearby traffic, Ashley Patterson, executive director of Wasatch Community Gardens, called the brand new garden on a plot sandwiched between Gateway apartments, businesses and construction zones "critical" to her organization's mission.
"This is as urban as it comes," Patterson said, noting the Gateway community "is quickly becoming the densest neighborhood in the entire state."
Gateway Garden, 46 N. 500 West, is Wasatch Community Garden's 16th garden in Salt Lake County and the seventh in Salt Lake City, Patterson said.
A dozen planter boxes filled with greenery awaited their final fall harvest as officials including Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski celebrated the garden's unveiling.
"Salt Lake City is seeing an immense amount of development, and having the foresight to maintain some land as open space is important for the residents of our community," Biskupski said. "By investing in these projects, we are investing in the future and health of Salt Lake City."
Biskupski lauded community gardens as a way for the city to become more sustainable and to bring neighbors together.
"(This garden) makes our community healthier and more resilient and reduces our carbon footprint," the mayor said.
Had it not been for years of work from passionate community members and dozens of partnerships between state, county and state organizations, as well as negotiations with Rocky Mountain Power (the owner of the land), Patterson said the Gateway Garden wouldn't have become a reality.
"It took a village," she said.
Patterson said the Gateway Garden is now a "protected plot" that is "so important to the residents here" in the middle of downtown Salt Lake City.
"These sorts of parcels of land are critical to have not only a place for people to grow some food and to meet their neighbors but have some open space that isn't buildings and parking lots," Patterson said.
Community gardens have become so popular in Salt Lake City, said Kristin Riker, public services deputy director of public lands, that the gardens currently have a two-year waiting period, "so we continue to look for more opportunities on city-owned land to build other gardens."
Riker encouraged any Salt Lake residents interested in starting a garden to complete an application at wasatchgardens.org.