By Barbara Trout for the Tillamook County Pioneer
As spring brings warmer weather to the north coast, people are getting out, prepping their gardens and eagerly anticipating a growing season. This makes it an exciting time at the Rockaway Beach Community Garden as people are coming together to work in this 18-year-old garden area.
The Rockaway Beach Community Garden was established in 2005, at the suggestion of City Councilor Ruth Daughtery with the support of the city, and assistance from Tillamook County Food Roots Director Shelly Bowe. From the beginning, this was a volunteer effort, with Phyllis Baker helping with design and layout, Floyd Goodell installing water lines and faucets, and the City of Rockaway Beach Public Works Department helping with various tasks along the way. Master Gardener Terry Walhood offered her expertise and support from the beginning. The garden’s existence and call for gardeners was mainly advertised in the Rockaway Beach Fencepost, by writers Luanne Swanson and later by Sugar Brosius.
Coastal gardening can be challenging due to cooler temperatures near the ocean, along with rainy and windy conditions. Over the years, frustrated gardeners abandoned many spots which became overgrown. Volunteer management of the garden went through several hands, and by 2016, one-third of the garden was completely overgrown and unusable. At that point, Elaine Cummings, Terry Walhood and Barbara Trout stepped up to co-manage and rehabilitate this community asset. One of the first steps was to obtain a Tillamook PUD Community Support Grant to purchase materials to rebuild and replace garden boxes, bring in soil, compost material, gravel, and wood chips. Elaine has a construction background, so she undertook the garden box construction. Reclaiming the overgrown garden spaces was accomplished with help from the Rockaway Beach Public Works Department, Neah-Kah-Nie students and other community volunteers. As the garden took on new life and a better appearance, people once again signed up to garden. It was at this time, after more than ten years, that the garden was fully subscribed for the very first time.
Many of the current gardeners volunteer to do upkeep around the garden and also donate their excess harvest to the Meals for Seniors program in Rockaway Beach to provide fresh vegetables for the community meal site for folks to enjoy.
The 25-spot garden is located next to Lake Marie on the site of the former Twin Rocks Improvement Club, between Washington and Minnihaha Streets, one block east of Hwy 101. Garden rules prohibit the use of chemicals in the garden, in an effort to keep the area as organic as possible. People are required to care for their spaces appropriately, and not let them get overgrown with weeds, which can impact neighboring spots. Spaces are rented on an annual basis from January to December, and the cost is $10 per space. Existing gardeners have the first option to renew their spots but there is some turnover every year. Terry Walhood maintains a waiting list, and people are contacted in the order they signed up as soon as a space opens up. For more information, to get on the wait list, email to Terry Walhood at email@example.com.