Plots at local community garden are now available

With winter weather still looming in the forecast, it may be a bit too early to stow away the snow boots and shovels for the season. But it’s not too soon to start thinking about the growing season.

That was the message Ron Huber, president of the Benjamin Rush State Park Garden Association, delivered to members of the Parkwood Civic Association during the PCA’s monthly meeting on Feb. 17. Parkwood is fortunate to have Rush State Park in its backyard, Huber said. The community garden is one of the park’s great resources.

Area residents founded the gardens 40 years ago through an agreement with Pennsylvania’s state park system, which is a branch of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Today, the community gardens occupy about seven acres of the park’s 315 acres. The gardens are centrally located in the park’s main section, bordered to the north by Poquessing Creek, to the southeast by a remote control airplane field, to the south by commercial development, to the southwest by the Delaware Valley Veterans Home and to the northwest by Roosevelt Boulevard.

The garden acreage is divided into 30-foot by 30-foot plots, which are open to the public through an annual application process. Gardeners must pay $20 per year to obtain a plot. New gardeners are limited to one plot in their first year until they prove that they will not abandon the garden mid-year and leave a mess behind, Huber said. Veteran gardeners are allowed to cultivate several plots.

Generally, the season runs from late March through October. The association hires a local farmer to till the soil at the start of the year. Planting usually begins in April. The park opens early in the morning and closes at dusk. Gardeners grow a variety of vegetables and flowers. Huber noted that gardeners come from throughout the city and have a variety of ethnic backgrounds, making for a diverse mix of crops.

For information about the Benjamin Rush State Park Garden Association, contact the administration in care of Fort Washington State Park at 215–591–5250 or email to fortwashingtonsp@pa.gov

Stephen Decatur School at 3500 Academy Road was also a topic of discussion at the Parkwood meeting. Principal Genevieve Endy-O’Kane talked about the school’s efforts to generate funding and promote its accomplishments, while responding to questions about safety.

In light of the budget problems faced by the city’s public schools, Decatur has mounted its own supplemental funding campaigns. The school has a strong collaborative administration and Home and School Association, allowing it to run events such as a recent designer bag bingo that generated $12,000 in proceeds. The money will be invested in technology for the students, the principal said.

Decatur was originally designed to serve 870 students, but it is growing. It now has about 1,030 enrollees in kindergarten through eighth grade. The school administers a Facebook page to highlight the positive activities of students and faculty and share the good news with the community.

During a question-and-answer period, PCA President Marge Philippi asked Endy-O’Kane what the school is doing to minimize safety risks to students during arrivals and dismissals. The school is on a busy stretch of Academy Road with no alternate entrance. All vehicles must enter and exit the property into traffic. Some parents don’t even bother to leave the roadway to drop off or pick up children.

Endy-O’Kane said she has implemented measures to improve traffic flow and to keep students out of danger. Instead of dismissing all students at once, dismissals are staggered by grade. The school parking lot entrances are closed during specific times so that parents must arrive before students get out of the building and cannot leave while students are filtering through the parking lot. School staff members are positioned outside the school to help crossing guards direct traffic and children.

Philippi noted that neighbors are doing their part to improve the school climate. On Mondays, some local seniors gather outside school and clean up litter from the grounds before students arrive.

Other speakers during the meeting included state Rep. Martina White, who briefed neighbors about her efforts to overturn Philadelphia’s “sanctuary city” status, as well as state Sen. John Sabatina, who invited women over 40 to take part in his free breast cancer screening on March 4 at 12361 Academy Road. ••