Community garden unveiled

East Forest Principal Deb Arner planted the seed and, with the help of Abraxas, it grew into the Marienville Area Community Garden.

The finished product was revealed to the community with a grand opening on Tuesday.

“This started with the Four Season Trail, and we got part of the end of the property to put in a community garden,” Arner said. “It started out slow with the kids clearing the land, and then this year it exploded with the help of Abraxas students and the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation.

“I am so pleased with the outcome. It would have taken us years to do this without the help of Abraxas. It is a nice place for the whole community.”

And, she said, it is a nice addition to the new section of the Marienville Library.

“Deb has been instrumental in galvanizing the community around this project,” Forest Area School District Superintendent Amanda Hetrick said. “She planted the seed and the garden grew.

Hetrick also praised Abraxas Art Director Erikka Long for being an “excellent partner,” and that the overall effort to make the project come to fruition was “marvelous.”

“For the first crew we had in here it was brutal,” said David Fitch, Abraxas workforce development supervisor. “They dug the whole area out by hand and carried all of the railroad ties out of the woods.”

Fitch said Abraxas students have performed other community projects, but the garden was the largest.

The project incorporated the library and the railroad heritage into the park. The library allowed the students to put large, wooden, flowers on the side of a building and a small free library in the park. The little library resembles the original railroad ticket booth that stands in the park. A water tower will be functional to allow people to draw water for the plants in the garden.

Fitch said the project had a lot of help from the community.

“Jenks Township put in a split rail fence and helped drill the holes,” he said.

More than 40 students, he said, worked on the project; investing more than 3,000 man-hours. About a dozen Abraxas staff members helped the students.

Fitch said the park is about 95% complete for this year and that the project could be a multiple-year effort.