In June 2007, the Calhoun County ACES Office was asked to establish a community garden at the Fort McClellan property on Justice Avenue in Anniston. Although the request was simple, the task of clearing the site of crumbling pavement and structures covered by privet and poison ivy was onerous. With the help of local ACES staff and Master Gardeners, the Cane Creek Community Gardens became a reality in October 2007.
According to Calhoun County Extension Coordinator Dr. David West, 2007 was a dry year and provided an opportunity for several irrigation demonstrations at the site. The grand opening featured a Pick Your Own Pumpkin event, a tour of a renovated meeting room (compliments of the Calhoun County Commission Environmental Enforcement Office), and hot dogs and chips by campfire.
“More than 600 pumpkins were harvested from an area that had been a parking lot three months earlier,” says West.
Cane Creek became an important venue for several organizations right away. Master Gardeners’ monthly meetings, the annual vegetable growers’ workshop whose participants come from several counties, a lunch and learn educational series initiated with the help of a Coosa Valley Resource Conservation & Development (RC&D) Council grant, Calhoun County Fall Fest, a community festival drawing visitors from across Alabama and adjoining states, and the annual Earth Day event for all Calhoun County fourth graders, are held on the site.
What started as a three-acre project has now become a 17-acre site complete with an active community garden containing more than 50 raised bed gardens, an expanded classroom area capable of seating 75, a Nature Explore Certified Outdoor Classroom and a continuing production-demonstration site. In addition to a Wildlife Educational Room being developed in cooperation with the Calhoun County Master Gardeners and Legacy (Partners in Environmental Education), a fruit crops demonstration site also is planned.
Well over 10,000 visitors have visited Cane Creek Community Gardens, not including daily visits of gardeners and maintenance volunteers. Out of a once-neglected corner of Calhoun County, a large re-development project has sprung to life.
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