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Early Street Community Garden Gains Permanent Protection

Town purchases property and forges management agreement with Grow it Green Morristown.

With redevelopment on the Early Street apartments moving forward, neighbors have gained permanent green space across the street.

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.

“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.”

The Town of Morristown has purchased the garden for conservation and entered into a management agreement with Grow it Green Morristown. 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.

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 Grow it Green Morristown. “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.”

Several local gardeners founded the nonprofit Grow It Green Morristown and created a community garden on the not quite 1-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, Grow it Green Morristown 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 Speedwell Redevelopment District and had been slated for a multi-story residential building before the community garden was established.

“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,” said Morristown Mayor Timothy Dougherty.

“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.”

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