On a bright and sunny morning on April 30, volunteers from Forest Park and the Comcast Corporation were hard at work at the northwest corner of Harlem Avenue and I-290. Shovels dug into the ground. Hammers pounded. The engine of a Bobcat tractor roared as it poured mulch over freshly laid soil. The Forest Park Community Garden was being expanded.
The work on Saturday included constructing the fence, building a shed, installing a water spigot, and expanding the number of raised garden beds from 30 to 54, and planting native plants and wildflowers along the berm lining Harlem Avenue.
According to Jessica Rinks, Forest Park Community Garden president, the majority of the garden is made up of 54 individual raised beds that can be rented by gardeners for $30 a year, $15 of which is a deposit that is returned to the gardener at the end of that time. The beds are open to anyone, without residency requirements. The grounds will be tended to by Community Garden volunteers.
The garden will also feature a circular garden divided into slices. Each segment will feature a different crop. The crops grown in this garden will be available to anyone to pick for themselves. Any leftovers will go to the food pantry in the Forest Park Community Center.
The garden expansion was the first large project funded by the village's "Live Healthy Forest Park" campaign, which seeks to decrease obesity by encouraging and educating people to eat healthy and exercise.
The project was done in conjunction with Comcast Cares Day, which celebrated its 10th anniversary this year. The program puts Comcast employee volunteers to work in projects around the country. According to Lashone Sanders, the project leader for the garden expansion and a supervisor in Comcast's workforce operations department, there were over 6,000 volunteers working in what the company describes as the greater Chicago region.
Sanders said that they had originally requested 60 volunteers, but when people heard about the project and what it entailed she ended up with a small army of over 100 to help create the garden. Rinks said that the volunteers from the Village outnumbered those from Comcast, but that Comcast was the main organizer.
This article has been updated to correct the rental price for a plot in the garden.