PAOLA — Anyone who has recently driven past the Paola Community Garden along Industrial Park Drive likely has noticed that some big changes are taking place.

Alexis Shaw, who has taken a lead role in the revitalization of the garden, updated Paola City Council members on the project during a work session Tuesday, June 4.

Shaw said a seven-member board has been formed to oversee the garden, and the group is working on establishing committees and updating bylaws.

Volunteers associated with the Shifting Gears for Regan suicide prevention organization recently held a work day at the garden. The workers spruced up the flower bed and butterfly garden and planted a tree in memory of Regan Johnson, a 16-year-old Paola High School junior who took her own life in December 2017.

Shaw said work is underway to try and get the site listed as an official butterfly waystation.

Fresh compost also is being tilled into the soil thanks to a donation totaling $1,000 from Missouri Organic Recycling, Shaw said.

New community plots have been installed that will be available for purchase, and Shaw said youths have been selling donated plants and painted pots at the Paola Farmers Market to raise funds for a scholarship.

Other ideas for green energy at the site include possibly adding solar panels to the shed and considering options for wind turbines at the site. Gutters also may be installed at the shed and shelter house, where rain barrels could collect water, Shaw said.

Flooding has been one of the biggest issues this spring, and Shaw said the community plots were moved to the back portion of the land on higher ground.

Shaw said it has been a true community effort, with volunteers of all ages helping out. There’s even an online water rotation sign-up.

For more information, see the Paola Community Garden Facebook group.

The garden was originally created in the summer of 2012, when the late Larry Criddle and a few of his middle school students helped move the garden from a plot next to the Master Gardeners’ trial garden near the Miami County Extension office to its current location north of Heatherwood Estates on Industrial Park Drive.

At that time, it was called the Paola Community Garden of H.O.P.E., which stood for “helping other people everyday.”

Editor and Publisher Brian McCauley can be reached at (913) 294-2311 or brian.mccauley@miconews.com.

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