A garden will soon bloom for Eernisse residents

A grassy patch of ground behind Vashon Methodist Church has been transformed into a plot of dark, loamy soil. Rocks have been removed, a deer-proof fence built.

And soon, residents at Eernisse Apartments will engage in what is for many Island residents a rite of spring: They’ll begin digging in the dirt, planting their favorite starts and nurturing a garden to help feed their families.

Thanks to the generosity of dozens of Islanders and lots of hard work, the land — a stone’s throw from Eernisse — is now ready for planting. It’s on loan to residents at Eernisse, Vashon’s only affordable-rate apartment complex for families and a place with little arable land.

“The Methodist Church has been incredibly welcoming to that community,” said Sam Hendricks, the executive director of Vashon HouseHold, which built and now manages the apartments. “It’s thoughtful. It’s generous. It’s appreciated by the folks there.”

Because of King County code, there is no room for a garden on the Eernisse property, Hendricks said, as a certain portion of land needs to be designated as wetland and as play space.

Members of the Methodist Church have tried to be neighborly since the apartments opened, Pastor Darryn Hewson said — from bringing the residents welcome baskets when they moved in, to creating a path through the property for easy access to the highway — and offered some of their property to the 26 households that live in the affordably priced apartments.

“It was a triangle of land not being used for anything. It seemed like a natural place for a community garden,” he said.

With donated labor and materials from the community, the 1,700- square-foot garden is nearly ready for planting. Spearheading the effort was Carl Fletcher Garrison IV, a sophomore at Vashon High School and a Boy Scout, who transformed the grassy spot as a service project to become an Eagle Scout.

Garrison had been thinking he would clean up some bike trails for his project, but Vanessa Burgess, a friend of his mom’s and the garden liaison at Eernisse, had a better idea: channel his youthful energy into the garden project.

Garrison agreed. “I thought it would help more people than just cleaning up some bike trails,” he said.

He set to work researching how to set up a garden and created a report for his Scout leaders to review and a church representative as well.

Different individuals and businesses lent rototillers and, at Garrison’s request, donated compost and fencing materials and their time to till, pick rocks, spread manure and fence the garden to keep out the ever-present Vashon deer. Volunteers from fellow Scouts to Eernisse gardeners to members of the Mormon church, where Garrison and his family are members, lent their hands to the project, which also includes creating a path from Eernisse to the garden and planting a maple tree and three rhododendrons.

Garrison has no regrets about leaving the bicycle trail project behind, but noted the work for this has been considerable. When he first agreed to do the project, he thought it would take a couple of Saturdays but estimates he will have logged in 100 hours or more before his work is completed.

“Eagle projects always take longer than you originally planned,” he noted.

This spring six families at Eenisse say they want to garden, and in future years the number might grow. Burgess, a busy mother of four, said all the gardeners there appreciate the land and all the work that has been done on it.

“We’re immensely grateful for what Fletcher did because he had access to resources we could not have gotten. We could not have done this on our own. The time and resources put in the project are just immense.”

At the Methodist Church, Hewson is pleased with the generosity of his congregation and the results.

“Whenever people come together on any kind of project, that’s a good thing,” he said.

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