LYONS – Residents of Lyons involved in a local project believe they are planting seeds for a better community as much as they are growing crops.
They turned an abandoned lot on the 4200 block of Leland Avenue into a community garden earlier this year. Near Smith Park, the garden is being cared for by younger and older residents.
“It began with a group of people who wanted to start a community garden, so we gave them a plot of land,” said Frank Torres, director of the Lyons Parks and Recreation Department. “They went out there and cleaned the area, got rid of the weeds and started the garden.”
Torres said Rich Balicki was one of the residents moving the project forward. Balicki had some items donated so volunteers could build flower beds.
“It was cleaned up beautifully,” Torres said of the land where the garden is located. “Since this our first year, it’s slow growing. We’re excited to see how it’s going to look at end of season.”
Balicki said he followed the lead of Lyons resident Jeff Dutton, who initiated the community garden. As a gardener for more than 45 years, Balicki said he was eager to become involved with the project.
“Jeff Dutton, he approached the village about starting this garden,” Balicki said. “Since I retired, I’ve been pushing for something like this. Everybody dumped their stuff here, and it’s nice to see something being done.”
The adult residents who regularly tend the garden have received some help from younger hands. The Lyons Parks and Recreation Department is running its first summer camp this year, and youths attending the camp have planted their own flowers in the garden, Torres said.
The village is operating the first of its two camp sessions, with each session lasting three weeks, Torres said. Campers in this first session planted some flowers and make a pilgrimage to the garden just about every day to see how it looks, he said.
A state-licensed teacher was hired to coordinate the summer camp sessions, and college and high school students serve as camp counselors, Torres said. The camp has become popular, with new participants signing up virtually every day, he said.
Balicki said he became involved in gardening years ago because it allows him to create something extraordinary where nothing existed before.
“It’s making something beautiful, and I hope we can proceed to other things in the community,” Balicki said. “We’re also putting together a memorial rose garden to honor people. We’re trying to do some unique things.”
Torres said the community garden is a way for Lyons residents to unite on a worthwhile project.
“I think it’s great,” Torres said. “Anytime we can get someone involved and anytime they take the initiative to make the community a better place, it shows that our community can come together.”