Durango’s only community garden facing sale, future uncertain – the Durango Herald

Ohana Kuleana Community Garden is on the market for $ 950,000

Charlie Love, a science teacher at Riverview Elementary School, and Paul Maliszewski, a visitor from New York, build a trellis for future lessons with elementary school students Monday at the Ohana Kuleana Community Garden in Durango. The community garden is being sold for $ 950,000. (Shannon Mullane / Durango Herald)

Shannon mullane

By next year, Durango’s only community garden, Ohana Kuleana Community Garden, may be gone.

“The future is cloudy,” said Chris Paulson, communications director for the garden. Real dark clouds had started to accumulate Monday afternoon as she stood in the community garden.

Ohana Kuleana opened for its first season in 2013. At the time, Bob Lieb, developer of the city’s first small family village, was in a lease-buy agreement with La Plata County. He had 10 years to decide if he wanted to buy the property, Paulson said. In 2020, Lieb bought the county’s 1.2-acre area for around $ 300,000, she said.

Lieb then tried to sell it to the city of Durango, but the effort did not advance.

“The city council has rejected the desire of its staff to buy the garden property, and now the property is up for sale,” Lieb said in an email to The Durango Herald, refusing to comment further. “Sorry, I have to leave it at that for now.”

La Plata County’s assessed rate for the community garden, divided into three plots, is approximately $ 555,000. It is listed on the market for $ 950,000.

Lieb’s asking price for the city was not immediately clear Monday, but Paulson said it was $ 475,000.

“This could be a fantastic opportunity for multiple homes or even a large estate-sized lot for the ultimate city location,” says the real estate ad.

Chris Paulson, communications director for Ohana Kuleana Community Garden, walks through the garden on Monday. She got involved in the community garden in 2013 (Shannon Mullane / Durango Herald)

Shannon mullane

Ohana Kuleana is booming after recent rains. It is tucked away behind backyards around 30th Street and Fifth Avenue East, a few blocks from the Animas River and next to Riverview Elementary School.

Paulson calls it a “sustainability theme park”.

Over the years, members of the garden have installed multi-stage water barrel harvesting and composting processes, which provide soil for the members of the garden.

Butterflies roamed among pollinating perennials, squash, zucchini, radishes, spinach and other green vegetables. A food forest berm, a common area where cherries and raspberries grow, stretches along one side of the garden. Nearby, community plots cultivate garlic and medicinal and culinary herbs.

“I started here the first year, 2013,” said Paulson. “I didn’t do it for a few years, then I came back. It’s one of those things – you miss it.

The Garden Project of Southwest Colorado, a Durango-based nonprofit, managed the garden until 2020. After that, garden members found another nonprofit tax agent and about six members took over. takes care of the management of the garden.

Most of the 45 plots are leased to members of the garden, six of which are reserved for Riverview Elementary School. About 100 community members as well as students regularly use the space, Paulson said.

“I brought over 1,000 kids here and basically used the garden as an educational setting to teach the science standards that I’m responsible for teaching,” said Charlie Love, elementary science teacher at the Riverview Elementary School.

It is a community based on the joy of seeing plants thrive and produce.

“There is positive energy and a connection with nature here. It’s also a huge learning experience, ”said Paulson, who didn’t grow up gardening. “I learned so much from the people around me.

Now Paulson said a word from Joni Mitchell kept ringing in his mind: “They paved heaven to put in a parking lot. “

Ohana Kuleana in northern Durango offers special features such as educational workshops, community gardens, water collection, and composting. (Jerry McBride / Durango Herald)

The city’s inaction on Lieb’s proposed real estate acquisition came as a shock, she said.

At the end of June, the municipal council of Durango considered the purchase, acquisition, rental or transfer of the Ohana Kuleana community garden. The councilors met in a private session, called an executive session. After the session, they announced that “no decision had been made” and moved on.

Advisors did not respond to requests for comment on Monday.

Still, Lieb was told the city would not pursue the purchase.

“The potential purchase of your property has been discussed in an executive session with the city council and the council has decided not to proceed with the acquisition,” wrote Cathy Metz, the recently retired director of parks and recreation, in an e- mail to Lieb.

No decision can be taken in an executive session, according to state law.

Dirk Nelson, the Durango City attorney who attended the private meeting, declined to comment on the email but said the city had made no decision regarding the garden.

The Ohana Kuleana Community Garden, which has 45 plots, is used by approximately 100 people as well as students at Riverview Elementary School. (Jerry McBride / Durango Herald)

Love was in the garden on Monday building a wooden trellis for a “three sisters” garden, which grows corn, beans and squash. It’s part of a plant symbiosis experience and a cultural lesson in Native American farming practices, he said.

“It has had a profound impact on a lot of kids for (nine) years now,” Love said. “I want this to continue to benefit so many young people. When it comes to ownership, what Bob Lieb has done has been amazing to get this thing to where it is now. Getting it long term, sustainable, viable – I think that’s everyone’s goal here.

For Paulson, the city’s lack of action made it seem like “a door had been closed.” Some of the garden members felt frustrated by the lack of clarity around the city’s actions, she said.

Losing the property would mean losing the partnership with the school and fewer opportunities for tenants and residents without a yard to garden.

“We will lose this sense of community and this ability to learn together, to foster that awareness and connection with nature,” said Paulson. “I feel pretty sad about it. I feel it’s a real loss.


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