Rose Roots History: Grassroots Community Engagement Results in Community Garden

Interviewer: Erin Newton,, (303) 253-5090

Interviewee: John Chisum on May 2, 2019, Rose Roots Community Garden Founder along with Gina Schley, Garden Founder.

1. The neighborhoods around Rose Roots were established between 20 and 30 years ago and are called Five Parks to the West and Lakecrest to the East. How did the idea come about to create a community garden on city park open space between these neighborhoods? What were the initial goals and vision?

I lived next door to Gina Schley, and she was a real driver. We heard the area might be slated for more houses or tennis courts. In order to preserve the open space feel between developments, Gina contacted city council and Bob Dyer and shared that the Community of Five Parks had a plot of land that was designated as park land and the community was interested in having a community garden in addition to the five parks that were developed. The team applied for a city grant of $175,000 and proposed community agriculture as well as a CSA and an orchard which hasn’t yet been built out. They added a through way sidewalk to unite communities. At the end of the first three seasons we offered gardeners surveys with questions like “how many community members have you met?” And “how much more do you walk?” And “how many more vegetables do you eat?” We got positive feedback from respondents suggesting they felt more integrated in their community.

A private property to the east of the garden was offered grazing land for their llamas in exchange for the agreement to have the garden and walkway. The council wanted to preserve the agricultural and open space feel.

2. How did you come up with the Rose Roots Name?

There was a historic well and a small homesteading house to the west of the garden and the owners last name was “Rose” so the name was chosen to preserve a link with regional history.

3. What was the process of establishing the garden and costs? How did you become a member of Denver Urban Gardens?

Gina led several women from the CSA who helped write the grant proposal. I served as an advisor in how to create non-profits. There were others in the community who wanted to create a 501c3 after the model the Arvada Gardeners used, who used to be called the “Arvada Men’s Gardening Club”. Denver Urban Gardens holds a contract with the city of Arvada, so they offered master Gardener classes to our leaders and through community meetings to offer community information. DUG offered a template on how to start a new garden and supported the community meetings efforts. DUG offered suggestions of layout, plot sizes, pricing, and designed auto cad drawings. The city did all the watering infrastructure, leveled the land, put up the perimeter fence, and provided insurance. Our volunteers built the plots including the ADA beds, the composters and two small sheds provided by Leadership Arvada who are tied to the Arvada Chamber of Commerce. It is a leadership development organization comprised of adults who seek out community projects and they built and funded the two sheds. This is our 18th season so the actual physical development of the garden came together in the Spring of 2011 with planning starting several years before.

There was a grant from Jeffco that paid for the initial installation of the garden and the city signed a contract with a for-profit farmer for the neighboring CSA property to the south of the Rose Roots Garden. The city contracted out the CSA barn and we later got the same architect to design a larger barn for the Rose Roots Garden.

In 2012, we were awarded an Arvada neighborhood grant, which paid for the pollinator community garden at the entrance on the south side of the garden, plus two shade structures, and the pathways and the Autocad designs with concrete design work around it which made a beautiful entrance for the garden and greenery for those using the walking trail. So volunteer gardeners cleared the land, planted it and put down the paver path using rented equipment. Arvada Rent Alls was very generous in donating equipment for leveling and making paths, flame throwers for cutting back weeds (but they came right back unfortunately), and a steam roller paver to stamp the pathways down. Michael Buchanew, landscape architect, was instrumental in helping explain the project to the city planners and advocating for the initial development of the garden.

4. Have there been other community gardens in Arvada besides the Arvada Gardners on 57th Ave? They have been around for 40 years I believe?

Yes, Arvada Gardeners are well established near downtown Arvada. There are five or six other community gardens including Majestic View, one at a school in the East Part of Arvada, one at the nursing home, one near the Methodist Church on Simms, and several others.

5. How does the garden partner with other organizations? What organizations participated and donated the most in time and resources?

The Arvada Fire department came out and roofed the two sheds. Several Boy Scouts troops have come out and helped maintain garden resources, as well as several churches, schools and service organizations. Many local organizations have donated time and resources, including donations of cement, building materials and labor for our new Red Barn on the west side of the garden.

6. What have been the major garden projects you’ve been proud of over the years and how did they come about?

The initial build out was incredible. People volunteered their skills, tools and equipment and their skills were invaluable. Theresa McKinney also did a wonderful job coordinating the building of the new Large Red Barn on the west side. On Simms and 72nd on the south west side there is a Methodist Church garden which we donated our old garden shed to so we were happy to see it be put to good use.

7. There is a nearby llama farm, a goat farm, other grazing properties, and a CSA group?

Yes, our farming neighbors give it a nice rural feel, despite that the area is surrounded by closely spaced homes. It is nice to have preserved this open space for neighbors to enjoy. We have also hosted bees on the property for the entire time.

8. An orchard was planned in the original design along with how many more garden plots? What types of trees were envisioned and how many parts of the initial garden design have yet to be completed?