CHINATOWN — A new garden is growing in Columbus Park.
The Charles B. Wang Community Health Center began tilling the freshly carved-out green space this spring, and now the butterfly garden and planters are in full bloom. A miniature greenhouse, just big enough to reach inside to water the plants, is filled with growing tomatoes, strawberries and cucumbers.
The garden is part of the health center’s “Greener, Healthier Chinatown Initiative,” which aims to turn Columbus Park into a place where residents can be physically active, learn and socialize, as a way of combating obesity.
“I think one of the issues facing the community is that there’s not enough public space to go around,” said Shao-Chee Sim, the center’s chief strategy officer. “We do what we can in the health center, but there’s a lot of environmental issues."
To introduce kids to the new garden, the Museum of Chinese in America worked with the health center to create an interactive scavenger hunt, which teaches about the history of the area while also getting kids moving with exercises like sit-ups and lunges.
At the first stop, for example, kids learn that Columbus Park was originally called Mulberry Bend Park, and then they practice doing butterfly, leg and toe stretches before moving to the next stop.
Laminated copies of the scavenger hunt are available at the park’s pavilion in both English and Chinese, as well as the museum.
Kids from the nearby Chung Pak Daycare Center on Walker Street have been helping out with the new garden, stopping by two to three times a week to weed and water it while learning basic science concepts like the plant life cycle, said teacher Lijung Chan. The children will get to sample the fresh produce once it ripens.
“This gardening project has been an exciting and educational experience for the children and the teachers,” Chan said. “[The children] go in and they’re like, ‘Oh, look at the flowers!’ ‘Oh, look at that strawberry!’”
“This beautiful and engaging garden space is fantastic,” Chin said.