MCKINLEY PARK — Think spring.
Sunshine, warming temperatures and blooming plants will be here sooner than later, and a group of McKinley Park residents are reminding neighbors to get in on the season's growing power by signing up for plots in the new McKinley Park Community Garden.
The deadline to reserve and register a 4-foot-by-8 foot raised planting bed is March 15. Registration is a snap, just visit the group's website to sign up. A $50 membership fee and some signed paperwork is due by April 1.
Right now, the community garden isn't much of a garden at all. It's a stretch of weedy land along Pershing Road between Winchester and Wolcott avenues that's been vacant for about 25 years.
Corenna Roozeboom, a master gardening student who helps run the Chicago Park District’s Harvest Garden program, is leading the effort to bring the green space to the starkly industrial corridor.
She said leaders of the volunteer group "couldn't be more excited" about the interest they've received so far. More than 40 beds have been reserved and Roozeboom said the number is "growing daily."
"Anyone who is interested is welcome to get involved. We have lots of space, so the more the merrier."
Cleanup of the land — which has room for a couple hundred beds — is scheduled to begin in March or April.
The idea is to create a true community space with involvement from the community’s Hispanic and Asian population and the nearby Namaste Charter School. Eventually, the organizers are hoping the garden will expand to include wildflowers, beekeeping and a gathering space with benches.
Since the effort began earlier this fall, it's received a ground swell of support. The organizers have formed as a nonprofit, making potential donations from local businesses and organizations tax deductible.
And they'll soon decide on which nearby food pantries will receive fresh produce from the garden.
"We hope the garden provides a space for McKinley Park residents and members of the surrounding community to form friendships and strengthen our community," Roozeboom said.