COMMUNITY GARDEN GETS IFFY SEEDING

rbpl-maple-coveA community garden is proposed next to Maple Cove, but officials say they need to do their homework before giving it an OK. (Click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

With the long debate over the preservation of Maple Cove echoing in the room, the Red Bank council last night parried with activist Cindy Burnham Monday night over a proposed community garden at the riverside public library.

Once again, elected officials claimed to have been caught off-guard.

In touting the proposed garden, local nature enthusiasts led by Burnham insisted they’d researched all necessary aspects to make it happen, and asked that the council sign off on the idea so it can move ahead.

Members of the group said the garden wouldn’t require any state Department of Environmental Protection permits. They were under the assumption that they only needed the council’s OK to begin planting.

But the council hadn’t received any word about the plan from the borough environmental commission, officials said.

“It would help if the borough, which owns the property, be notified of this,” Administrator Stanley Sickels said.

It’s the council, not a subcommittee, that needs to speak with the proper DEP officials about necessary permits, if any, Mayor Pasquale Menna said.

While the council supports the idea of a community garden, Menna said, he and his counterparts need to do their own homework to make sure such a project can go forward.

Burnham sparked a similar response in 2009  with her direct contact with the DEP over plans to designate a borough-owned plot at the foot of Maple Avenue a passive nature area and kayak and canoe launch.

The issue now is not about whether the council approves of the idea, but whether the DEP  approves of all the particulars, officials said.

Council President Art Murphy advised the members of the subcommittee to bring its research and correspondence with state agencies to the council so it can stay in the loop and then make a decision, and he brought up recent history to bolster that point.

“The borough owns the property, so all the correspondence you get has to come back to the borough,” he said. “They’re telling you it’s OK, but they’re not telling us. It happened down at the launch ramp, the Maple Cove.”

Burnham, who is part of the subcommittee, said this isn’t anything at all like the mini-drama that unfolded with Maple Cove, though.

“It’s not a ‘me’ gig,” she said. “It’s a committee thing.”

Burnham, along with seven other members, plans to create a 60-foot-by-40-foot community garden with individual plots, to be leased for $25 each, on a patch of land at the Navesink end of the library property.

She said the group has worked with the environmental commission to flesh out the plan, including discussing with the DEP any potential permits needed to have a garden in that area. The group was told by the DEP no permit was necessary, she said, and believed the commission had relayed the progress to the council.

A dozen or so supporters of the garden showed up to Monday’s council meeting expecting a presentation on the garden plan would be on the agenda.

Menna said that will happen soon.

“I think we have to do some homework, but it will be placed on a workshop agenda, hopefully as early as our next meeting,” he said. “We need to see if permits are involved. There may not be. I don’t profess to know.”