Early Street Community Garden Protected

June 12, 2013
Morristown, New Jersey

The Early Street Community Garden has been permanently protected, announced The Trust for Public Land, the Town of Morristown, and Grow It Green Morristown, which collaborated on its conservation.

Several local gardeners founded the nonprofit Grow It Green Morristown (GIGM) and created a community garden on the not-quite-one-acre property in 2009. With a short term lease from the private owner of the property, the garden quickly attracted a diverse, multi-generational group of gardeners and became a valuable community green space in the heart of Morristown. In addition to offering garden plots, GIGM hosts regular public events at the garden including pot luck meals, live music, beekeeping classes and programs for children.

The property is located in the Town of Morristown's Speedwell Redevelopment District and had been slated for a multi-story residential building before the community garden was established. When gardeners and local officials discussed the idea of purchasing the land for conversion into a public garden, local residents rallied around the opportunity with an outpouring of support letters and testimonials to Morristown, Morris County, and the State Green Acres Program.

The Town of Morristown has now purchased the garden for conservation and entered into a management agreement with GIGM. Funding for the $2.1 million purchase was provided by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection's Green Acres Program, the Morris County Preservation Trust, and the Johanette Wallerstein Institute.

"Creating and protecting green space in cities and towns is a critical ingredient in a community's health and quality of life," said Anthony Cucchi, The Trust for Public Land's New Jersey State Director. "The Early Street Community Garden project exemplifies our mission to conserve land for people by protecting a space created by and for residents who are taking action to improve their community."

"Community gardens like this one in Morristown allow people without suitable land of their own to grow fresh vegetables and fruit for themselves and their families," said Morris County Freeholder Ann Grossi, freeholder liaison to the Morris County Preservation Trust. "Community gardens promote a sense of community pride and provide a wonderful place for our young people to discover gardening, nature and healthy eating. Morris County is pleased to be part of this collaboration to permanently protect the Early Street Community Garden."

"The Town of Morristown is extremely grateful for the citizen commitment and hard work of the gardeners at Early Street Community Garden to both create a beautiful community garden in the neighborhood, and to advocate for the necessary resources to ensure that this treasure becomes a permanent place for the community to love and enjoy. As Morristown continues to grow, the preservation of neighborhoods is critical, and the creation of wonderful open spaces in our neighborhoods will ensure that we continue to build the kind of places where we want to live, work and play. We are grateful to the partners who came together who made the vision a reality for Early Street Community Garden, including The Trust for Public Land, the New Jersey Green Acres Program, and Morris County Open Space Fund Committee," said Morristown Mayor Timothy Dougherty.

Now that the property has been protected, the Town and Grow It Green Morristown will begin planned renovations that will more than double the number of available garden plots. Other enhancements will include a public seating area adjacent to Early Street and a rain garden and walking path that will connect the garden to a nearby church.

"When we first proposed creating a community garden on this space, people told us the land was going to be developed, there was nothing we could do about it, so why bother trying," said Samantha Rothman, President of GIGM. "Today, we've shown that when community members become engaged, their energy can radically change the predicted outcome. The Early Street Garden is a tangible manifestation of grassroots activism."

A community celebration and ribbon-cutting is scheduled for 10:00 a.m. on June 13, 2013 at the garden, located at 17 Early Street, Morristown NJ 07960.

Founded in 1972, The Trust for Public Land is the leading nonprofit working to conserve land for people. Operating from more than 30 offices nationwide, The Trust for Public Land has protected more than three million acres from the inner city to the wilderness and helped generate more than $34 billion in public funds for conservation. Nearly ten million people live within a ten-minute walk of a Trust for Public Land park, garden, or natural area, and millions more visit these sites every year.